If you have spent time walking along Evans Road in Ashcroft over the past two years, there’s a good chance you have noticed the area steadily becoming more appealing to the eye. Perhaps you’ve spotted a man traversing its length, rake in hand, pulling weeds as he walks along the riverbank.
That man, Jim Duncan, has been working to clear a walking trail alongside Evans Road for over two years.
“For the longest time it was a pick and a rake,” Duncan said of his efforts to clear a space for the walking trail himself.
The proposed trail overlooks the river, but as traffic increases to and from the expanding Ashcroft Terminal, the road will become much busier.
“We have people right now that don’t walk here anymore because it’s too busy,” Duncan explained about the need to create a distinct pathway. “They’re saying next spring it’s going to be a lot busier.”
Ashcroft’s Mayor Barbara Roden confirmed that traffic here will likely increase as capacity expansion takes place at the terminal.
“Every night people come out here and they park and walk their dogs,” he said. “People are doing it but they’re doing it on the road right now, and when it gets busier they’re not going to want to do that.”
The Ashcroft Pathways to Wellness Task Force is comprised of a small group of local volunteers who have joined Duncan in the hopes of establishing an official walking trail along Evans Road.
During the August 26 meeting of council, Duncan presented resolutions of support for the project’s objectives, which included a request for a report providing information on how to acquire provincial land in order to create a proposed natural park and subsequent public access to the river.
In his letter to council, Duncan described the riverine frontage along Evans Road, which extends for several kilometres, as one of Ashcroft’s “greatest, yet most unrecognized, assets.”
The local 4-H club has already installed a sitting bench, a picnic bench, and a portable washroom along the path and has been maintaining those additions themselves.
Duncan planted trees there almost two years ago and waters them regularly. His goal is to widen the pathway next to Evan’s Road, to stretch about eight feet across so that people can walk comfortably together along the river.
“What we’d have to do on an area like this is put some sort of retaining feature [in] to make it wider,” he explained. Evans Road itself is paved, but includes a small area of unpaved ground that overlooks the river. Duncan has already cleared a suitable one-person walking path himself in this proposed area.
“What I’ve been doing is trying to go down about 4 inches with the gravel and bring it out. I need more gravel at this point,” he explained, pulling a weed from the ground as he spoke.
“A lot of the spots it’s just a matter of getting more gravel from somebody. Right now what I need is the village’s permission to do the path so that I can get [more] gravel out.”
Duncan hopes to see all village councillors walk the path with him so that they can see the route themselves.
“They won’t walk there if it’s not wide enough for two,” Duncan argued, noting that it wouldn’t be that much of a challenge to widen the path. Still, he can’t do it alone.
Locals Gloria and Al Mertens have joined him in his efforts, but he said that everyone is welcome to help.
So far, only one village councillor has walked the path with him and observed that there was lots of room to expand the path.
“When they were running for council, I asked everyone point blank, ‘Are you interested in the path?’ and they all agreed,” recalled Duncan. Now, he wants to see a decision on whether or not council will support its development.
Roden said that council had hoped to address the proposed walking trail for Evans Road at the most recent council meeting, but plan to respond at the next regular meeting, which takes place on Oct. 28. By that time, they hope to have obtained the necessary information to move forward with a decision.
“I’d be very happy personally to see a walking trail along Evans Road if it’s feasible, and I believe that everyone else who ran for council indicated their support for such a thing, if we can do it.”
Roden added that she is aware of a public desire for more walking trails in the community and said the village would like to support such endeavours, where possible.
“That would be a lovely place to see a trail, but I’d like personally to look at other places in the village as well and see if we could maybe do something like what Clinton has done, which is a network of trails with a sort of connecting trailhead somewhere so that you can move between all the areas of Ashcroft seamlessly and safely.”
Duncan believes a walking trail along the river would be a tourist draw and hopes to one day install a gazebo to provide shade along the path, too. He also has ideas to set up a solar pump to provide irrigation for the trees he’s planted.
Evans Road is lined with concrete barricades, and Duncan has taken to using them as a form of measurement for his work. “Each one is 10 feet [long] and I would come out and do three a night, so that’s 30 feet.”
A work crew could easily complete the clean-up work required to finish clearing the entire length of the path, he said.
“If you had 20 people and each one [cleared] 30 feet, that’s a lot of path.”