FERGUS – One of the most vocal opponents to a proposed bridge at Pierpoint Park is only 11 years old.
Connor Mulligan, a Grade 6 student at John Black Public School student, wrote on open letter to county council after his teacher told him and his classmates that they won’t be able to go down to the river anymore because the council is planning to build a bridge over it.
“Usually, I like to relax after school but this time around I thought I should do something about this because I love nature more than I love relaxing,” said Mulligan in an interview with EloraFergusToday.
“I love coming here and we couldn’t come here last week because of hunting season, which is bad enough, but we wouldn’t be able to come here at all if they built this bridge. It’s not cars that will go through the bridge, supposedly, but also big trucks, which will make this very dangerous.”
In his letter, Mulligan wrote how upsetting it is to see a project proposal being made over Pierpoint Park and listed three reasons why he’s opposed to it.
“First, this is one of our towns only Black heritage sites because on this land is where Richard Pierpoint lived and was supposedly buried underneath one of the great old trees in the 1800s,” Mulligan wrote.
He also wrote that his whole class goes to the park and the river every Tuesday as part of their curriculum. They learn about all the many different types of ecosystems that thrive there, and they also play games.
Mulligan explained that they are not the only ones who go to the river, but the animals as well. He acknowledged that animals depend on the river for food and shelter, and it would be inhumane to destroy it.
The mayor of Centre Wellington and the county engineer Don Kudo both replied the next day to Mulligan’s letter via email.
“Projects that are recommended through the RMAP will have to undergo further detailed studies in the future. The detailed studies would include how a project will impact the local cultural and natural heritage as you pointed out in your letter,” Kudo wrote in his email reply to Mulligan.
“In the Fergus/Elora area, there are a number of road alternatives the Road Master Action Plan (RMAP) is currently recommending so there will be a need for an area specific study to be done.”
MP Michael Chong's office replied a couple days after and Mulligan received a letter in the mail from Michael Chong on Nov. 8.
“I know there are more people coming here and living here, but why would you use new people as an excuse if the bridge is only for big trucks and not new people? That’s an excuse,” said Mulligan during the interview.
“They say that Fergus and Elora are getting bigger and we need this bridge for that, but it’s only allowed for trucks from what I’ve been told.”
At Tuesday's roads committee meeting, Mulligan's letter was included in the agenda and acknowledged.
Local Fergus residents Melanie Lang, Bob Grant, Malcolm McCulloch and Peter Boyer also spoke as delegates during the meeting.
They presented five issues they want identified for further discussion: pedestrian safety, Pierpoint fly-fishing reserve, traffic noise and health concerns, planning cost and justification and black history and heritage site.
"Our area is home to many families who have children in attendance at the local schools," said Lang.
"Some of these streets are currently inadequate for safe pedestrian use and have no sidewalks. John Black students frequently use the Pierpoint park and fly-fishing reserves for outdoor activities and educational purposes. We also want to let the committee know that the Pierpoint fly-fishing reserve is a prime destination for fly-fishing in Ontario. An estimate value fly-fishing brings to our community is $1.4 million."
The committee acknowledged that the proposed bridge project is at its early stage, and will include Connor's letter and the delegations' report to the planning process moving forward.
No decision has been made as of yet with the proposed bridge proposal.
Angelica Babiera, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com