By Trevor Busch
‘Happy trails to you until we meet again’ could serve as the unofficial motto for the Southern Alberta Trail Riders Association, but securing a location for a trailhead that meets the approval of the Town of Taber has been no laughing matter in 2020.
The Southern Alberta Trail Riders Association (SATRA) had previously staged their trail rides out of the old Pro Rodeo grounds off Highway 864 when it was a lease space. The Pro Rodeo grounds are no longer leased and the Town is not maintaining the area. On Sept. 14, Coun. Carly Firth had put forward a motion to direct administration to engage SATRA to explore the feasibility of parking in the old Pro Rodeo grounds area. The motion was defeated.
SATRA has now asked to stage their equestrian activity at the Taber Trout Pond parking lot and were asking for a designated park- ing area. Horses are not currently permitted at the trout pond.
“Since then, the Alberta trail riders association has asked that the town allow equestrian activity to take place and be staged out of the trout pond parking lot, which we were hesitant to agree to without council discretion as horses are not allowed at the trout pond, and that was part of the discussion of why the old rodeo grounds didn’t work,” said recreation director Dawn Phillips at town council’s Nov. 23 meeting.
The issue had also been previously discussed at the Nov. 5 meeting of the Taber Recreation Board, which passed a unanimous motion to request that council pass a motion for administration to engage with SATRA to discuss suitable options for staging in Taber for trail rides, to be brought back to council for approval.
“I’m in favour of this Southern Alberta Trail Riders Association, and it would be a shame if we pushed them out,” said Coun. Jack Brewin on Nov. 23. “I still don’t really understand why we didn’t allow the Taber rodeo grounds to be used for this for a staging area, they’re out of the way and wouldn’t be bothering anyone on the trail. So I would like to see it go back to the old rodeo grounds as it was in the past.”
Coun. Mark Garner felt it would be “ill-advised” to rubber stamp the trout pond parking lot for SATRA’s use given the varying number of recreational activities at that location, while instead recommending a location near the town’s waste transfer station.
“As I recall, one of our concerns about staging those out at the old rodeo grounds, is that we didn’t really want to commingle — if we could get away from it — horses and people, and mountain bikers, joggers. I think that was the root of it, at least in my mind. I have no problem supporting an initiative like this. I think the location is key, though, and I’m just thinking this would be ill-advised to say ‘sure, set up in the parking lot’ when mothers are setting out strollers and herding kids down a pathway, I think that would not be a good thing. I just wonder if we couldn’t look at a different location where they can marshall their horses and trailers, such as if we went past the weigh station at the landfill, there’s a great big open field there. Why would we not say have at it? That road is serviced year round. I’m all for the trail riding thing, but I just think the location has got to be appropriate.”
Limited hours at the waste transfer station would make such an option difficult.
“I see part of that as an issue with the landfill being open roughly 40 hours a week, somewhere in there,” argued Mayor Andrew Prokop. “That’s a pretty limited time that it’s open for the amount that the riders like to get out there, and typically they’re out there on the weekends for one, so that affects Sunday obviously. That could be problematic in a number of ways.”
CAO Cory Armfelt pointed out the intent of various resolutions was to engage in dialogue with SATRA over the issue, not deter- mine an alternative location.
“Administration’s intent, and I believe the intent coming from the recreation board, was simply just to engage with the Southern Alberta Trail Riders Association to see what might work for them, not necessarily to decide on a location this evening, but to actually have that conversation with them as to location options that they might find suitable to continue their passion, just not necessarily adjacent to the trout pond trails.”
Coun. Garth Bekkering echoed this sentiment.
“This is not for us to pick a spot, it’s for us to have administration explore the possibility.”
Following discussion, council voted unanimously (6-0) to direct administration to engage with the Southern Alberta Trail Riders Association to discuss suitable options for staging in the Town of Taber for trail rides, to be brought back to council for approval. Coun. Louie Tams was absent.
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