Midland council looks into dual snowmobile/pedestrian waterfront trail

A near collision with a Midland councillor inspired council to look into shared winter access of walking paths along a waterfront snowmobile trail.

At the recent regular meeting of Midland council, a notice of motion was introduced by Coun. Catherine MacDonald who raised concerns of snowmobiles and pedestrians using the same waterfront trail during the winter.

"Most of the time it's safe enough," said MacDonald. "But I've experienced, myself personally: You hear the snowmobile coming, there's a bend in the curve, a blind spot. They don't see you, they don't slow down. And even if you jump...

"In one particular, personal case," she related, "I was well off the side but the snowmobiler person was driving much too quickly, was losing control, and basically it was almost a collision."

Since obtaining her seat in office in the new term of council, MacDonald had raised the possibility for staff to look into evaluating whether a walking trail and snowmobile trail could be implemented along Bayshore Drive, from King Street to Aberdeen Blvd. The notice of motion was the first opportunity to formally introduce the request.

"I realize that presently it's being shared with the snowmobilers' association (Georgian Bay Snowriders), but if we could look into other paths for the snowmobilers to take we could keep the pedestrians safe on the walkable path above and they could continue to share the view and the pleasure year-round," MacDonald explained.

"Snowmobilers are much more apt to be able to develop a different path than the pedestrians. It is being used by pedestrians; they do walk on the snowmobile path."

Additionally, a request for staff to explore the cost and feasibility for a walking path through Little Lake Park to the dog park was included.

Members of council supported the request for a staff report.

Deputy Mayor Jack Contin suggested previous data relating to the multi-use trail would be helpful during the exploration.

"We need to also look at the liability issues associated with this," said Contin. "We're at the end of the winter season just about, and our snow hasn't really been much this year, but I'm sure in the coming years it will because we live in a snowbelt."

Coun. Beth Prost questioned whether the issue had been brought before council in previous years, with acting CAO and executive director of environment and infrastructure Andy Campbell recalling an issue regarding snowmobile and pedestrian use at nearby Harbourview Dr. and Vindin St. last year.

Mayor Bill Gordon also recalled a conversation about the plowing of Little Lake Park.

"I don't think we ever got to the costing side of it," said Gordon, "because we learned that as soon as we started to drop the blade and plow it once, we had to keep it to the minimum maintenance standards. And that didn't seem to resonate with people at the time because of the implied costs without even getting an actual number.

"I imagine that'll form part of this report and we'll have to see if that's a price we're willing to pay."

Council meetings are held every third Wednesday, and can be attended virtually through Zoom by contacting the clerk’s department of Midland town hall for a link to the meeting.

Council meetings can also be viewed on Rogers TV cable channel 53, or through the livestream on the Rogers TV website. Archives of council meetings are available through Rogers TV and on the Town of Midland’s YouTube channel.

Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca