The three municipalities that maintain the Georgian Trail are looking at widening problem areas that have become overgrown and congested.
“The Georgian Cycle and Ski Trail Association has offered a contribution to do some maintenance on the trails in Collingwood, the Town of the Blue Mountains (TBM) and Meaford. The maintenance would include widening the trail back to its original width where there has been some narrowing,” said Ryan Gibbons, director of community services for TBM.
According to Gibbons, there is no formal or detailed plan in place for the project right now but town staff are working with the association, as well as Collingwood and Meaford staff, to determine what areas of the trail are in need of widening.
The Georgian Cycle and Ski Trail Association has been an active partner in maintenance of the trail since its conception and in an effort to facilitate the widening, the association has contributed $2,500 per kilometre to each municipality for the length of the trail in its jurisdiction.
The contribution totals approximately $84,000 with $51,000 for TBM (20.4 kms), $18,000 for Meaford (7.2 kms) and $15,000 (6 kms) for Collingwood.
“We feel that it is essential that the Georgian Trail surface be widened to its original design standard and appropriately maintained so all users - whether they be cyclists, pedestrians, skiers, runners, or dog walkers – can safely co-exist on this world-class multi-use trail as trail usage continues to increase,” stated the association in a public release.
In October of last year the association conducted a survey of its subscribers with the majority of the 82 respondents indicating they were satisfied with the width of the trail.
However, the group has continued, eeyeing up high-traffic areas where widening may be considered, which includes: Thornbury West, Lora Bay, Thornbury East, Georgian Peaks, and Macdonald’s Furniture to Harbour in Meaford.
“I'm aware that there are some areas where it's down as narrow as five feet. So obviously, if a bicycle and pedestrian were passing in one of these areas, that would be a concern,” said TBM Mayor Alar Soever.
According to the Town of Meaford's By-law Number 50 – 2016, which outlines the agreement for the management of the Georgian Trail between the three communities, the width of the travelled portion of the Georgian Trail will be designed to two meters (6.56 feet) where possible but shall be no less than 1.5 meters where drainage, topographical challenges and soil types do not allow two meters.
However, the association has noted its intentions to widen the trail to its original width of 12 feet in certain areas which will allow for it.
Local resident Pauleen Home is one individual who would prefer not to see the trail widened, but rather just let nature do its thing.
“What a shame that nature has become a problem for the trail’s custodians,” said Home in a deputation to TBM council. “We cannot assume widening is needed anywhere on the trail.
"Mostly, I remain unconvinced that going from five to 12 feet in some areas will not mean dramatic changes, including clearing trees, moving ditches, etc. Sadly, the objective appears to be more on turning this trail into a road than a trail," said Home.
TBM council members raised similar concerns during a council meeting held on Monday evening.
“We've had discussions with widening out other trails in Grey County to accommodate motorized vehicles. I would not want to see that happen here,” said TBM deputy mayor Rob Potter. “But I understand that's not the case. This is simply to go back to what we originally had.”
Gibbons confirmed there are no plans to change the allowance of motorized vehicles on the trail and it will remain open to pedestrians and cyclists only.
“No motorized vehicles are permitted to be used on the trail with the exception of our town maintenance vehicles or contractors. Again, this is just for bicycle and pedestrian use,” Gibbons added.
Hooved animals, such as horses, are also prohibited from Georgian Trail use unless otherwise approved through the standards and council for the specific area.
According to Gibbons, once a formal plan has been approved by all three municipal partners, TBM will provide further communication to the public on which areas of the trail will be widened.
TBM's 2021 Parks and Trails budget also includes funds to resurface three kms of sections of the Georgian Trail, continue with the ash tree removal program and replanting of seedlings, in addition all road crossings will be cut back to allow for better visibility at cyclists and pedestrians crossings.
Jennifer Golletz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca