‘Conversation’ with residents pauses Niven Lake trail blasting

Map: Proposed Niven Lake trail improvements
Map showing location of proposed Niven Lake trail improvements.
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Proposed blasting on Yellowknife’s Niven Lake trail will now wait for the results of a week-long consultation with residents.

The city recently sent out a notice warning of forthcoming blasting in an attempt to make the trail, from Niven Lake to downtown Yellowknife, easier to access and safer to use.

However, Councillor Adrian Bell asked the city to put improvement work on hold until residents have had a chance to give feedback.

Speaking to other councillors on Monday, Bell said news of the proposed blasting had been “a surprise to great many people and a surprise to me”. He says residents should have time to consider the alternatives before anything goes ahead.

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In particular, Bell believes people should bear in mind the likelihood of a new sidewalk being added between Niven Gate and the Explorer Hotel in the near future.

“We’ve been working hard to try to get that stretch of highway transferred from the GNWT to the city and that may be coming together in the next one to two years,” he said.

“There’s a very real possibility that there may be a safe sidewalk route from Niven Gate to the Explorer Hotel within a few years.

“It’s important that we have a conversation about this. The public want to know what the alternatives are and want an opportunity to weigh in. [The trail blasting] is a change that, once made, is irreversible.”

Map: Niven Lake proposed trail improvements (pdf)

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The city’s senior administrative officer, Dennis Kefalas, explained why the city intends to blast areas of the trail.

“We’ve heard over time about why people wouldn’t want to use the trail: the two issues are lighting and accessibility,” said Kefalas.

“There wouldn’t be much work needed to make the trail accessible so we decided to bring in a local contractor. If we remove some of the outcrop knobs that are hindering access to the trail, and provide a level surface, we can help promote people using the trail and try to create a safe means to access downtown.”

Bell agreed that some areas of the trail are “difficult to clamber up, especially when it’s icy”. He noted reassurances from the city that the trail will follow natural contours where possible, and trees will remain in place.

“The question for the public is,” concluded Bell, “knowing that you’ll be able to take the highway safely in a few years, do you still want to make these improvements?”

Bell will meet with any concerned residents at the foot of Haener Drive, in Niven Lake, from 5:30pm on Tuesday. The city wants to hear residents’ feedback by Monday, November 2.

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