Building the Slave Lake trail system

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

The late Gerry Allarie had a lot to do with the establishment of Slave Lake’s popular paved trail system. This was in the latter part of the 1990s, when he was mayor.

Allarie’s role has been acknowledged and commemorated by the naming of the system ‘Allarie Trails.’ This was a recommendation of the town’s naming committee, endorsed by town council in 2018. The signs went up in August of 2019.

Allarie passed away in 2017. Several months prior to that, The Leader talked to him about the trail project and how it developed.

“I talked to Pat Vincent (town manager) about it,” Allarie said. “He started talking about engineering and I said ‘no,’ let’s just build them.”

Allarie said the next thing was to organize meeting of four local companies and asked them if they were interested. They brought up engineering too. Again, Allarie said, ‘no, just build them.’

So that’s what happened. He figures as a result, the town paid maybe a quarter or a third what it would have otherwise – partly because the local companies donated some of what they did.

Could it happen that way again? Perhaps not, with the spectre of liability looming behind everything undertaken by government. There was some fundraising for the project, Allarie recalled. A local committee was formed and donations solicited. That covered the cost of paving, he said.

It wasn’t long after the initial construction that people started advocating for an extension of the trail to Devonshire Beach. That was tricky, since it involved further use of the Hwy. 88 right of way. Alberta Transportation wasn’t delighted with the idea, Allarie said, “but we just did it.”

It was a good idea. The paved trail to the beach is used a lot, and it keeps kids and others off the narrow highway shoulder.

The M.D. of Lesser Slave River has done its bit; it re-asphalted its portion of the trail a couple of years ago.

Slave Lake’s community trail system is now known as the Allarie Trails, after former mayor Gerry Allarie. The signs went up last month.

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