One of the largest trail assessment projects that IMBA Canada has ever undertaken is coming to an end. For twenty days I was Prince Albert National Park this summer examining over 230 km of trail with uses ranging from hiking and cycling to nordic skiing and equestrian.

Situated two and a half hours north of Saskatoon, Prince Albert National Park is a popular destination for families throughout the summer. With beaches, a marina, superb fishing, the town of Waskesiu, a golf course and more, the Park has opportunities to offer something for everyone. The trail system however was designed in an era when mountain biking wasn’t even an activity. Many of the trails have extensive boardwalks, staircases, etc…. which are at the end of their life span. This provides us with an ideal time to look at new solutions and alternate trail routings with current construction methods.

Like most of IMBA Canada’s trail assessments, the data collected from this process is then distilled and used to provide the Park with a general trail plan which will improve the sustainability and user experiences. The new general trail plan provides PANP with locations throughout the Park to develop new stacked loop trail systems which cater not only to hikers but to mountain bikes as well. It is IMBA & the Park’s hope to create a new trail network which provides visitors with a good weekend’s worth of biking, at minimum.

Now, having this plan is one thing, but having a trained staff who understands the principles with which it is to be built and maintained is another. Earlier this season I had the opportunity to run a IMBA trail workshop with staff at the Park. People from management, resource conservation, trail maintenance, and other departments all participated in this three day course. We spent two mornings in the classroom covering everything from design process to sustainable construction techniques and trail maintenance.

In the afternoon of the first day we all walked the Shady Lake trail, stopping along the way to discuss various trail issues and possible solutions. Upon finishing the loop the group set about tackling a low lying wet area and the fall line section of trail before it. Everyone spread themselves out and had at it with shovel and McLeod, Pulaski and rake. Staff installed knicks and rolling grade dips to help shed water off the trail, flagged a new, higher trail routing above the soggy, existing trail and did a beautiful job benching in the reroute while closing and rehabilitating the old trail.


I think its pretty safe to say that these photos show what a great job they all did! In the last photo, the old trail is on the left and the new on the right… looks like it has been there for ages!

With the Shady Lake build under their belts, the staff were ready for something a bit more complex and so for the afternoon of the second day and the entire third day a yet to be built section of the Red Deer Trail was their project. This second project had the staff using clinos; shooting grades, benching, rock armouring, landscaping and more… all by hand! By the end of the third day, with the last rock in place, this staff crew had managed to complete a solid section of benched trail and had designed the remaining trail up to the end.