No winter trail maintenance for Tay residents this year

·3 min read

Tay staff's suggestions around trail winter maintenance were shot down after council found out it didn't mean grooming.

Late last year, council asked staff to come up with options to maintain sections of Tay Trail in the three settlement areas. The matter was brought back to the table by Mayor Ted Walker even though staff had recommended against the move.

After weeks of working on the project, staff brought forward several options at a recent special council meeting, only to be shot down by concerns over a misunderstanding around what winter maintenance meant.

"I'm going to put a wrench in this," said Coun. Mary Warnock. "I have been using the trail for the last couple of months with my poles and boots and it's very walkable with the snow base. As I walk, I meet a lot of people and they're loving the fact that they can walk on it and cross country ski."

So, she asked, does winter maintenance mean staff will be clearing snow to the pavement?

"Since people knew it was coming to council, I've had numerous emails from people asking not to salt and sand it," said Warnock. "It's very safe as it is. I'm not sure what end game we're trying to achieve here, but I'm hearing from residents that they like the snow-packed base. Maybe we need to get a clear understanding of how we're clearing."

Lyell Bergstrome, manager of roads and fleet services, confirmed that would be the case.

"The sidewalk machine will scrape down to bare asphalt or close to it," he said. "Once we start clearing snow, we have to provide de-icing. I think there might be some liability issues."

Rick Bingham, interim general manager, operational services interim manager of engineering services, confirmed that's the case.

"When we go to maintain, we have to maintain it for pedestrian use to minimize slips and falls," he said. "The risk of liability increases if we don't do that."

Walker said he didn't think liability should get in the way.

"We know people are using it even now, so I suspect liability would be just as great even if we were clearing it," he said, asking about grooming the trail.

Bryan Anderson, manager of parks, recreation and facility services, clarified.

"We do not have equipment to groom and we did not reach out to the snowmobile club, because I believe direction from comment was to keep motorized vehicles on the pathway," he said.

Coun. Jeff Bumstead asked if there were different clearing options available.

"We're talking about clearing the width of the trail?" he asked.

It can be split, said Bingham.

"The intention here is to provide one path with the sidewalk machine," he explained. "The trail is wide enough. If pedestrians wanted to walk on the maintained section, they could do that. If the snowshoers and hikers and skiers wanted, they could walk on the other section."

Warnock said she also had other concerns.

"I'm looking at the cost as well and the upkeep of this ($10,000), it gives me some concern," she said.

Walker said it was council that gave staff direction at the last meeting and voted in favour of the move.

"I guess the question is, are we going to renege on this?" he said, calling for a vote. "Or are we going to go ahead and implement the three sections of trail that staff have recommended to us?"

The motion to provide winter trail maintenance for this year only was defeated by a majority vote.

Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com