Differing paths: Tecumseh residents remain split over plan to extend the Ganatchio Trail

·4 min read
Mark Piche, left, and Bob Labute, right, are both residents of Tecumseh, Ont. Piche is opposed to the project and Labute supports it. (Tahmina Aziz/CBC - image credit)
Mark Piche, left, and Bob Labute, right, are both residents of Tecumseh, Ont. Piche is opposed to the project and Labute supports it. (Tahmina Aziz/CBC - image credit)

Residents of Tecumseh, Ont., are still divided over the town's plan to extend the Ganatchio Trail into the town.

The town held a virtual special council meeting Thursday evening where its consultants, Bezaire Partners and Dillon Consulting Limited, provided an update and further details on the project.

The consultants concluded that they recommend proceeding with the proposed plan to build a 2.4- to 2.7-metre wide asphalt, off-road multi-use trail along the south side of Riverside Drive between the east end of Windsor and Manning Road.

They argue the design provides a safe and accessible route for pedestrians and cyclists which doesn't require major road reconstruction.

Bob Labute, a longtime resident of Tecumseh, said an extended bike path in the area is long overdue.

Many residents living along Riverside Drive in Tecumseh support the "Rethink the Trail" group.
Many residents living along Riverside Drive in Tecumseh support the "Rethink the Trail" group.(Tahmina Aziz/CBC)

"There's just no room for bicycles and vehicles, so they ride on the sidewalks and that's quite dangerous," he said, adding that cycling has grown more popular in the area.

"For the benefit of people now and for many, many years later, let's do something right the first time and maybe prevent somebody from getting seriously hurt," he said.

Labute is part of the Extend the Trail group, which supports the plan, arguing it will provide a new, safe way for residents to get to Lakewood Park and experience the connected parks system.

The group popped up in response to Rethink the Trail, a group fighting the plan, which Mark Piche, another Tecumseh resident, is a part of.

"The Ganatchio Trail is in Windsor, it's not a Tecumseh project," he said. "Extending a trail for people to use is fine, but you have to take in consideration so many options. ERCA [Essex Region Conservation Authority], safety. Community safety is huge."

He and other members of Rethink The Trail argue the proposed extension would be unsafe given all the driveways it would pass through. Some of those opposed live on Riverside Drive, and the trail is slated to run in front of their homes.

The group urged the Town of Tecumseh to look into other options.

The consultants said they have, but said the alternate routes are longer and don't resolve issues and alternative facility types don't serve the intended purpose of connecting existing and future trail networks.

Extend the Trail is a group that popped up in response to Rethink the Trail. Members supports the plan, arguing it will provide a new, safe way for residents to get to Lakewood Park and experience the connected parks system.
Extend the Trail is a group that popped up in response to Rethink the Trail. Members supports the plan, arguing it will provide a new, safe way for residents to get to Lakewood Park and experience the connected parks system.(Tahmina Aziz/CBC)

"There's nothing wrong with extending the roadway a little bit for cyclists ... that's fair, but to put a swath of concrete across anybody's property that's been here for so many years just doesn't seem logical," Piche said.

Labute disagrees, saying that the frontage of land is not the homeowner's property, but rather belongs to the public.

Piche says the plan is illogical and the town should listen to its residents and their concerns.

"Have some common sense and some logic. It's not an us versus them, north/south debate. That's not an issue at all. It's not about people not wanting cyclists to use the roadway and be safe," he said.

"Just put some logic behind it. Listen to the people who live in this ward and in this community. That's all we ask the town of Tecumseh to do," he said.

More than a dozen of other residents joined in the meeting Thursday night, expressing their reasons for support or disapproval of the project and about 70 others wrote to the town, making similar arguments raised by Labute and Piche.

The town said the proposal is a good match to existing trails to the east and west and there are good comparative examples of local trails designed in the same manner, including on St. Clair Road in Lakeshore and Malden Road in LaSalle.

The plan to lengthen the trail is one part of the County Wide Active Transportation System, which aims to create an 800 kilometre network of trails and paths, linking seven local municipalities.