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Warren Durocher does some brushing along the West Channel of the Hay River on Aug. 7 as part of a multi-year initiative by the Town of Hay River, the Trans Canada Trail organization and the Northwest Territory Metis Nation to improve the trail system in the community.
Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

A five-year project is improving the trail system in Hay River.

The initiative, now in its second year, is working on the 14.6 km of trails, which are part of the recreational infrastructure of the Town of Hay River.

“For us, it’s something that’s important to maintain and have in good condition for people to be active, healthy and get outdoors,” said Stephane Millette, the recreation director with the Town of Hay River.

The town’s partners on the project are the Trans Canada Trail organization and the Northwest Territory Metis Nation.

Millette noted that most of the work this year is on Vale Island, other than at two trail heads in New Town that are being opened up to provide better views of the Hay River, including at Bob McMeekin Chamber Park.

Last year, the Trans Canada Trail organization provided about $50,000 for the project and the town is seeking a similar amount this year. That financial support is used to buy resources, some equipment and even sometimes to hire contractors.

The Northwest Territory Metis Nation’s involvement is covering the wages of a project manager and four labourers, as a way of providing employment and job training to members of the Metis Nation.

The Trans Canada Trail – which was officially renamed the Great Trail in 2016 – runs from Bob McMeekin Chamber Park all the way to West Channel.

“There are some connector trails in the Old Town right now that are kind of overgrown and that’s the emphasis of the project this year,” said Millette.

The recreation director said last year’s work mostly concentrated on what used to be the Kiwanis Trail, but is now known as the Rotary Trail.

“Interpretive signage was prepared for basically all of Hay River’s sections of the Trans Canada Trail and also way-finder signage that also runs the whole way along the trail,” he said.

The trails in the community include the Downtown Trail, the Rotary Trail, the Irma Miron Trail, the Old Connector Trail, the Scout Trail and the Oxbow Trail. The Great Trail – or the Trans Canada Trail – covers sections of the local trails.

Millette noted that, even though there is a five-year plan, the town doesn’t have a multi-year funding commitment from the Trans Canada Trail organization or from the Northwest Territory Metis Nation because they go on a year-by-year basis.

“We’ve got a verbal commitment that they want to continue to work with us if we’re going to continue to improve the trails,” he said.

In the next three years, one of the goals will be to improve the Oxbow Trail on Vale Island.

“There are some sections of the Oxbow Trail that are very wet and they’re going to require probably some engineering in order to determine which sections we need to redirect to higher land or to build some boardwalks,” said Millette.

Other trails that require work and planning include the Scout Trail that runs along the West Channel of the Hay River, and the beach walks on the shore of Great Slave Lake.

“Those beach walks are fairly easy to walk, but there’s no real infrastructure,” said Millette. “There’s no tables. There’s no signage. There’s nothing to indicate that these are trails that are there for tourists and for residents.”

From where the Oxbow Trail ends at the beach in West Channel, a person can walk along the beach back to Old Town.

Peter Magill, the tourism and economic development co-ordinator with the Town of Hay River, said the trail system helps attracts tourists to the community.

“That’s one of the big things. If they’re coming here, they want to see the landscape, even if they’re from other communities surrounding us,” Magill said. “They’re looking for what is different here. So they want to get out into the wild and see what’s out here.”

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Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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