Bikes, Boots, and Brains Trail – Supporting Cochrane and Area’s Mental Health

The Cause

We are applying for a grant to create a community trail for light hiking/walking and bikes that is a “Brains, Boots and Bikes” trail with informational panels and benches along the way about positive mental health, benefits of being active, and brain development. The hope would be that this project addressed two areas of community resiliency and wellbeing; (a) knowledge translation from current research on brain health to digestible tidbits along the trail, and (b) another source of healthy activity that we know will positively affect mental health. Volunteers would create most of the trail and the grant would primarily go towards signage, benches, and some materials for the trail.

Taking advantage of 2400 hours of sunshine a year in Cochrane, and a beautiful benchtop southern slope, this future trail could be focused on
mental health and the benefits of exercise.
Using interpretive panels and well placed benches, this could become a contemplative space that would encourage walking, slower cycling,
and thinking.
The trail would be located on land owned by the Mount St. Francis Retreat Centre who is partnering with Bike Cochrane to allow public access to their trails, trail management, and trail stewardship. These trails would remain publicly accessible and available for free to residents of Cochrane and Rocky View County.

The goal would be for a soft launch of the trail later this year and we could hopefully do a grand opening during mental health week next spring in May.

Who Will it Benefit?

The community of Cochrane (population ~35000) has free public access to this new trail (~2.5km in length with limited elevation gain). The ease of access to the trail from the community along with the southern aspect in the grasslands means that it is already seeing ~100 walkers/runners/cyclists a week and we only opened the trail in early September. We now have a counter on the trail to assess the usage through the winter, and will do periodic counting studies in the summer next season as well.

In addition, the Mount St Francis Retreat Centre hosts silent retreats and spiritual direction. They also serve those in the 12 Step Program through weekend and evening Serenity retreats. They host groups and individuals seeking a place of quiet and stillness in an often hectic world. They can accommodate up to 48 people (45 rooms/48 beds) and frequently host groups who are working through addictions programming. Having a beautiful outdoor space that's accessible all year round means that their retreatants can benefit from the mental health benefits of the outdoors and beautiful mountain views. We'd estimate ~~2000 users from the Retreat Centre annually along with the resident monks would take advantage of this space.

Lastly, our community borders Rocky View County and Calgary, where there are more than 1.2 million residents who are constantly seeking new outdoor spaces. While we don't have a sense of how much it'll be used by our neighbours, we do plan to run our counting program to assess the benefits of the trail.