Sturgeon County residents marched into history Saturday as they set off down the Lamoureux Trail — the newest leg of the Trans-Canada Trail.
The sun sparkled on the North Saskatchewan River Saturday morning as about 60 people, including federal Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi, Mayor Tom Flynn and Choo Choo the Clown (Jose Vargas), gathered at the shining white Our Lady of Lourdes Church just north of the Hwy. 15 bridge to celebrate the opening of the Lamoureux Trail. The party came complete with food, music, red and white balloons, and about a bazillion mayflies.
It was also one of about 200 similar events happening that day across Canada to mark the symbolic completion of the Trans-Canada Trail, of which this trail is a part.
While the trail will never truly be done (as it will always need improvement), this is the first year that Canadians will be able to walk from St. John’s, Newfoundland, to Victoria, B.C. along a single trail network, said Japman Bajaj, spokesperson for the Trans-Canada Trail foundation.
“I can’t thank you enough,” he told the crowd.
“You’re part of something national, you’re part of something massive, and every time you walk on the trail, you’re sharing that experience with hundreds of thousands of others.”
Historic and cheap
Flynn kicked off the commemorative five-kilometre walk along the trail with residents by cutting a red ribbon with oversized novelty scissors.
Completed last week, the 1.8 km Lamoureux Trail runs from the Hwy. 15 bridge north to a staging area, where it links to the rest of the Athabasca Landing Trail network. Dotting the trail are numerous historic markers and interpretive signs. The trail is also part of the River Valley Alliance trail network that will eventually run from Devon to the mouth of the Sturgeon.
On the books for many years, Flynn credited local Coun. Ferd Caron with rallying the funds needed to build the Lamoureux Trail this year.
Caron said the trail cost about $1.4 million, two-thirds of which came from the federal and provincial governments. The county’s share worked out to about $40,000 due to fundraising.
“We’re getting an over-million-dollar trail for 40 grand. That’s pretty good.”
The Lamoureux Trail is fully paved and offers “an absolutely gorgeous view” of the North Saskatchewan, Caron said. While it mostly follows the trail’s original route (which was swallowed by forests long ago), parts of it had to be moved up to Lamoureux Drive to deal with soil conditions.
The trail and the community of Lamoureux are named after Francois and Joseph Lamoureux, say historians — two brothers from Quebec who settled here in 1872. The brothers were prominent businessmen and community members, running a ferry , organizing a lumber mill and donating the land for the local church.
This trail would have been used by fur traders back in the day to travel up to Athabasca, Caron said. The original Fort Edmonton and Fort Saskatchewan used to stand just down the road from where the Lamoureux church stands today.
Caron said he was very excited to see this part of the trail system completed, and noted that another 3 km would be added to it before the end of the year.
Area resident Ray Houghton, a descendent of the Lamoureux brothers, said the new trail was a safer alternative to walking along Lamoureux Drive and hoped it would encourage people to become more active.
“We were hoping this would be done, and it’s finally accomplished.”
Bajaj said this trail was part of an amazing national asset that we all own.
“All the research suggests that the more time you spend in nature, the healthier you are, the happier you are, the better you are,” he said.
“Use the trail. It’s free.”
Visit thegreattrail.ca/explore-the-map to explore the Lamoureux and Trans-Canada trails.