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One kilometre of earthwork left for pathway project in Estevan

The city wants to make sure we get all that earthwork done before the fall and winter sets in.
Pathways Estevan, pathway system
The work on pathways continues in the valley in west Estevan.

ESTEVAN - The pathway system currently under construction in Estevan is getting closer to being done.

While there is about one kilometre of earthwork left to complete, there is still much more to be accomplished this year.

Under the conditions of the federal and provincial grants the City of Estevan received for the project, they had a very short window to deliver the broad and intense, but so needed and wanted by the residents project. City parks and facilities manager Rod March said that everything is progressing well, and they hope to get everything or at least most of it done before the end of the year, and before winter.

"It is going very well in terms of the dirt work, all the earth moving. And that's what we were worried about with such a short window in this season," March said.

He explained that originally this was a three-year plan, but with the way the grants came out, the city was left with just one year to do everything.

"The challenges upfront were all of the approvals, and permits, and First Nations consultations. All that had to be done in a very short window in order to meet some construction guidelines," March said.

After accomplishing the required paperwork, they had about four months to complete 13 kilometres of pathways, with all the required utilities done and purchased in order to have the federal and provincial funding to cover it. And the construction has been progressing really well, March said.

"We want to make sure we get all that earthwork done before the fall and winter sets in. On that front, we're doing absolutely fine. We were lucky that in September and even into October, the weather is holding so nicely right now, that we're down to about the last kilometre of what we call base and subbase work. So they're moving earth, navigating the pathway route and doing about the last kilometre. And hopefully, the weather holds, and we'll get that asphalt down here soon enough," March said.

About 2 1/2 kilometres of the 13 is sidewalks. As pedestrian safety is most important to the city, they had an opportunity within the grants to create some sidewalks that will be a part of this network of pathways.

March noted that while they received some requests from citizens to connect different areas, they weren't able to be too flexible with the map of pathways due to outer constraints.

"It's so restrictive when you're in a small municipality with all kinds of engineering controls, we've got train track streets, we've got private property, we've got underground utilities. So all those things we had to navigate as we were going, which is why I didn't create a map upfront that people can follow because we have to make changes as we go depending on what we find," March said.

There were several challenges that the city ran into down the road, like underground water springs they found in one area, which made them change the route.  They are also still dealing with CP while trying to complete the north crossing on Kensington Avenue.

"We're having communications with CP Rail on the one crossing on Kensington ... CP Rail wants to review the north crossing on Kensington and Transport Canada wants to review it; it's their jurisdiction … They're supposed to be here shortly, just to do a review of what we've done. And we've submitted an application for that crossing," March said.

"This is what I mean in terms of the challenges with this particular project in such a short period of time. They require six months just to review. And we don't have six months to review this kind of stuff, we have a four-month construction window. So they are coming over and they're quite willing to work with us. They just want to make sure that any Transport Canada crossing is safe, and it meets their requirements and standards."

Currently, there is a barricade at the north pedestrian crossing at Kensington Avenue, indicating that it's closed.

March also pointed out that while they don't want to stop anyone from using the pathways, it's important to remember that the construction is still underway.

"I must remind everyone that it is still a construction zone. We're not finished yet. So there are some steep hills and stuff like that, that we're well aware of. They're not designed for anyone on wheels of any sort. These are walking trails. And these are meant for a good workout in some areas as people have requested through this entire project," March said.

Rails and potentially stairs are to be built in some steep-slope areas, but for now, the public is asked to use common sense and caution if walking through those parts of the trail.

"Don't go on bikes on extremely steep hills that are not designed for bikes, these are walking paths or to get up your cardio, that's what they're designed to do," March said.

Once earthwork is completed, March will have the final route and will eventually create an interactive map.

"People can use (an interactive map) if they want to do a four-kilometre loop, a three-kilometre loop or a 10-kilometre loop. The intent is that I'll have that uploaded, and it will show where all the dog waste dispensers are, where all the litter containers are, where the washrooms are, where the benches are," March said.

He added that all the pieces to enhance the pathway system are currently being purchased, and signs are being made. But the main part is to get the earthwork done and hopefully lay asphalt before winter.

"The grant funding expires this year. I have all the signage that needs to go around that's being produced right now locally, but the benches, all that, I'll purchase everything with the grant this year, but then we'll probably install that into the spring. That's a lower priority for me. It's still got to be done, but I got to make sure that I meet the provisions that were in that grant and first and foremost is to get the 13 kilometres in," March explained, adding that they are trying to involve as many local contractors as they can into the project.

The city has also the permit put into Municode, which is a provincial regulator, to get a washrooms facility put up in the Westview area.

"It's going to be down there with a new warm-up shack for the outdoor rink," March said.

He added that they are trying to have all the major expenses in this year, so it's covered by the grants. 

Contractors are currently working underneath the Long Creek rail trestle in the valley and March said it's "a big project to get underneath there, it's quite extensive and expensive," and in the Buffalo Lookout area by Fourth Avenue South.

He received a couple of negative comments about steep areas, and he had to remind the users that they are not finished yet, but 99 per cent of the feedback he receives is positive.

"Most people call just to say how much they love it. So we're very happy that people are out using it and getting their daily workout," March said. "We just want to remind people that it is a construction zone, and there are contractors working around the area. And so please, please use caution if you're out and about. They're fighting the weather, too, and trying to get things done. And our number one priority is the safety of the patrons and citizens."

He added that without the provincial and federal support, this project would never come through, and they are doing their best to have everything done in time.