CANMORE – Anyone heading down the Spur Line Trail may have noticed some new visual improvements.
The popular trail has had close to 200 pieces of art placed along the stretch of walkway from 7 Ave to just before the Engine Bridge.
The art spread along the trail showcases a variety of themes from the history of the community, pieces designed by children, the wildlife in the region and the Indigenous aspect in the Bow Valley.
“When I knew it was the Spur Line Trail I was working with, I realized quickly the Spur Line spoke to far more people than just the people who lived on the trail. Many people use it to get to and from work, walk their dogs,” said Canmore-based artist Lesley Russell, who curated the trail.
Russell said after finding out she had been selected for the project, she began posting on social media to garner interest from participants.
Roughly 300 flyers were posted around town and feedback quickly came in with people wanting to take part.
Russell said about 160 pieces of art came from Canmore and an additional 30 from Morley. She highlighted the wood used for the art is from felled trees along the Spur Line Trail that she had saved for the past six years.
“It brings it full circle,” she said. “We’re bringing the Spur Line trees back to the trail.”
After the wood was cut to size, sanded by her son, it was delivered with art kits to people interested in showcasing their art on the trail. Once they were completed, they were returned or picked up then sealed to help survive the elements.
“The response has been incredible. I’ve heard it’s promoting community engagement and encouraging people to stop and look at them, but also talk with one another about the art as they walk the trail which is the main point of the project to encourage engagement.
“We got such a great collection. It’s fantastic. People really committed to it. I was absolutely blown away.”
The art began being placed along the trail in October and took about three weeks to complete. To avoid damaging any trees, steel is being used to hold up the artwork.
“It was really important for me that no trees were harmed in the making of the trail,” she said.
Russell took part in the first Building Neighbourhoods Builds Community program. The public art installation had a metal sculpture placed in the Avens neighbourhood that represented the past, present and future. It came together with residents of the neighbourhood and Stoney Nakoda Elders.
The second edition of the program aims to bring members of the community together and celebrate the many cultures and history of Canmore in different neighbourhoods.
For people who have yet to see the artwork, they will have plenty of time.
The work will remain at least until next fall, where the plan will the artwork auctioned off to raise funds for local charities.
The Spur Line Trail is a significant part of Canmore’s history. From the late 19th century to 1979, it was the rail line for the coal mines from the west side of the Bow River to the main line in town.
When the mines closed, it was slowly developed into the existing trail residents and visitors frequent throughout the year.
Russell, who lives along the trail, said she often sees many people stopping to appreciate the art, take photos and discuss what the work may mean to them.
She said she has also had many longtime residents, some of whom worked in the mines, reach out to tell their stories.
“It’s really educated people by being able to share the history of the railways, the mines, our heritage, the landscape and the animals in the area.”
“The response from the public has been amazing. You see people on the trail and they’re stopping to talk about it, they’re taking photos. It’s become quite the attraction. A lot of people who did the plaques use the trail a lot and they each have a lot of individual stories on what it means to them.”