We tend to think of wildfires and clear-cutting as destructive, but both have great significance in renewing forests. Alberta has a fire-dependent ecosystem and nature uses wildfire to clear out older trees, which are more vulnerable to disease and insects.
Our data shows that in the last 100 years, the forest in the Nordegg area would have naturally seen two or three wildfires if it weren’t for humans putting them out, making the forest unbalanced and at greater risk for larger, faster-burning wildfires. FireSmart helps us minimize the risk of these fires. And now, a new mountain bike trail in Nordegg provides a unique opportunity to see how these techniques look up close.
The trail runs 13 kilometres through both well-developed forest and areas where trees have been cleared away to mimic the size and shape of a wildfire. Our wildfire crews have applied various FireSmart techniques to different areas along the trail. Logging equipment was used to mimic a wildfire disturbance, while in other areas branches were pruned to reduce the risk of surface wildfire turning into crown wildfire. Crown fires involve the entire tree, including the upper branches while surface wildfires burn along the ground. Whether visitors return to the trail weekly, seasonally or annually, they can witness firsthand the various stages of a forest’s life cycle.
Since the project started three years ago, the numbers of grasses and smaller plants – which can’t grow in areas of mature forest – have flourished. The mix of these areas with older mature forest creates a mosaic of different ages and species of trees that are beautiful to bike and hike through – and also make the forest more resilient.
The trail, created in partnership with Frontier Lodge, is located west of Nordegg in the Fish Lake Provincial Recreation area. It’s open to non-motorized recreationists, including hikers, mountain bikers and cross-country skiers, so it can be enjoyed year-round. From the trail, visitors can access Frontier Lodge, the Fish Lake Provincial Recreation Area, and Gold Eye Lake.
The trail took about 1,500 hours of labour to build and incorporates approximately 900 feet of new boardwalk. It’s a great example of how many organizations have come together to bring a project to life. Sponsors for this project include:
- Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development
- Mountain Equipment Co-op
- The Western Heritage ATV Association
- West Fraser
- Clearwater County
- Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation