Athabasca is finally officially connected to the Trans Canada Trail.
On Sept. 16, organizations involved in developing the MRM Wildlife Habitat, Athabasca Landing Trail (ALT) and putting the bridge over the Tawatinaw River joined at the head of the bridge for a ribbon cutting ceremony.
“It took a while, I must say,” said one of the land donors, Janis Richards. “Finally, we found the right organization to take our donation, put it together and now you have these wonderful trails here for your children, your grandchildren for years and years to come.”
About 50 people were present to celebrate the grand opening of the 120-foot bridge, which was installed last February. The Athabasca Landing Trail connects Fort Saskatchewan with the Thorhild, Sturgeon and Westlock counties, and is also part of the Trans Canada Trail.
Town of Athabasca Mayor Roger Morrill gave acknowledgements to all of those involved, thanking the Rotary Club of Athabasca, Alberta TrailNet, the Trans Canada Trail Foundation, government of Alberta, federal government, Athabasca County and the Town of Athabasca.
“I really appreciate the efforts of everything that has happened here, through the different councils,” he said.
Morrill also presented the Athabasca Recreational Trails Association with a government of Albert and Alberta TrailNet “Trail Hero” award, which was accepted by president Lynn Jewell.
Morrill said he would be “absolutely remiss” if he did not recognize the MRM descendants – an acronym for the three families that donated land: Johanes Mikkelsen, Stan Richards and Kitch McCallum.
“I personally don’t know a lot of the descendants that are here. I know of you. I know how historical this land is … I know the generosity of that family and the legacy you have created here through the donation, and then going ahead and starting the MRM wildlife habitat project,” he said.
A plaque was also unveiled at the head of the trail recognizing the donation of land by the three families.
Linda Strong-Watson, executive director of Alberta TrailNet, said she is proud to have had the opportunity to partner with the Town of Athabasca in supporting development of the new bridge, trails and staging area.
Richards spoke about the history of the land and said Mikkelsen, Richards and McCallum were local entrepreneurs that originally bought the land, “thinking they’d have a great big nice piece of commercial land,” which did not work out as they thought.
She added the children of the three men have tried various ventures along the way, but now “this is the best use of the land, ever.”
“We’d like to thank you very much. We hope you enjoy these trails forever.”