Although it looked like Dundalk would be at the end of the line for County rail trail upgrades, a motion from Brian Milne of Southgate derailed that plan.
Although the first motion on the floor was to do only 20 km of trail south from Berkeley, the deputy-mayor of Southgate made an amendment to do all 35 km through to Dundalk.
He reminded county councillors that the rail trail was actually built from the south to the north, so Dundalk was the beginning of the trail.
“It’s high time we get this project done – we’ve dragged this on for I don’t know how many years,” he said.
“The residents at the north end of the county have had the benefit of a wonderful trail for a number of years, he said.
“I think it’s time that we allow the rest of the county at the south end to have access to a lovely trail as well.”
His amendment was supported by Christine Robinson, West Grey Mayor.
“I really like the idea of having an all-inclusive trail as we look at the opportunity for anyone to enjoy this recreational tourism type of activity,” she said.
So the grading, stone-dusting and compacting will be completed on the whole of the CN Rail Trail, starting south of Berkeley and continuing to Dundalk in the 2022 and 2023 seasons.
As the Herald/Advance reported earlier, Dufferin County has also chosen to upgrade its part of the rail trail to support the demand for outdoor activities that has risen during the pandemic.
Council delegate from Grey Highlands Cathy Little also spoke to support the motion.
While county staff noted that the costs of materials has risen since the project was first proposed, she said there was no guarantee that costs would be any lower over the time to do the project in increments.
“I would support doing this right now in toto,” she said.
That means that 35.5 km of trail will be completed within the 2022/23 construction seasons. Bluewater Landscaping and Construction have the tender for a total amount of about $840,000
In the past, the county has tendered three to five km per year with prices at about $10,000 to $12,000 per km, staff said. Costs now are “significantly more,” like $23,000 to $25,000.
Staff said that completing the southern part of the project meant higher fuel prices for trucking the material from the north. Deputy-Mayor Milne suggested the same materials could be found closer to the project site rather than trucked from further north.
The project received an infrastructure grant of about $200,000 in a COVID-19 related application. There is $40,000 already budgeted, and another $45,000 in the budget for 2022, there is some money from Development Charges available. To do the full project will use the trails reserve of $514,000 and additional sources to be found by working with the county finance department.
The partial project for 20 km to be done in 2022 came in at about $460,000.
Owen Sound Mayor Ian Boddy told council that it’s not like the southern trail is impassable by bicycle without the grading and stone-dusting.
“You can ride on this trail the way it is. You might walk differently… but it’s still quite rideable the way it is.”
County Coun. Milne then sprang to his feet and asked, “If the trail is fine the way it was, why were we putting any stone dust on it any where?”
Warden Selwyn Hicks who chaired the meeting, responded, laughing, “Point noted.”
Staff will be bringing back a report on how to maintain the trail in the future.
But after talking to other places with multi-use trails, staff said they heard “loud and clear” that trails which don’t allow motorized users in the fall, spring and summer months have “significantly lower” costs.
The staff report will look at options for doing maintenance in-house or partnering with the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority. There is some shouldering equipment that might be used, and also student summer help could do maintenance using existing county equipment. There is an existing contract with Grey Sauble.
M.T. Fernandes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Dundalk Herald