Powassan homeowners oppose residential road becoming official snowmobile route

A number of Powassan homeowners who live on Maple Hill Road are concerned about a suggestion to have their rural road designated a snowmobile and ATV trail.

Maple Hill Road resident Lindsey Gradeen spoke to town council about this and cited several reasons why the road should not become an official trail of the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC).

Gradeen said while the homeowners don't oppose outside economic activity coming to Powassan, they “do oppose a route that would create disruptive noise, air pollution and negative impacts to wildlife, livestock, farmers' fields and vegetation”.

Gradeen added the additional snowmobile traffic would increase the risk of accidents and injuries.

“Opening our road to provincial tourism is a downright awful idea,” she told council.

Gradeen strongly urged the elected officials to consider an alternative route.

For several years the town council has been trying to develop a snowmobile route that connects with the main OFSC trail which goes by the municipality. There used to be a local route that crossed private land and connected to the main trail, but a few bad apples who had disregard for the owner's land prompted him to pull the access.

Ever since then councillor Randy Hall has been trying to find an interim trail until he can identify a permanent route with cooperation from the Ministry of Transportation.

In response to Gradeen's concerns, Hall told her Maple Hill Road is being touted strictly as an interim solution “and it's not something you'd be stuck with for the next 20 years”.

At a local level, residents already routinely travel on Maple Hill Road on their snowmobiles and ATVs.

Gradeen told the council many people walk on the road, some with their children and pets while others ride it with their bikes. She said promoting Maple Hill Road as a tourist destination for the province “would bring a lot of activity to a rural road”. Gradeen said part of Maple Hill Road has a winding section and it's already dangerous for pedestrians who cope with motor vehicle traffic.

“I've had countless near misses with motorists on this stretch over the years,” she said.

Gradeen said local users are familiar with the winding nature of the road in this section but not the hundreds of snowmobilers who would be from out of town if the road becomes a designated trail.

Gradeen had two requests of council if it continued to pursue Maple Hill Road as a designated official snowmobile trail. She asked that any member of council who is a member of the OFSC Near North Trail or the Restoule/South Shore Snowmobile Club to consider declaring a conflict of interest when the issue comes to a vote since any member of council would benefit from the snowmobile designation.

Councillor Randy Hall, who lives close to Maple Hill Road and already rides on it with his snowmobile and ATV, said he was “taken aback” with the suggestion.

Hall told Gradeen he didn't understand where the conflict would be and how he would benefit since he already uses the road for recreational purposes.

In response, Gradeen said she made the conflict comment in general and was “not a personal attack” on Hall.

The councillor disagreed and said “we'll have to agree to disagree”.

Gradeen's second request was that council carry out a thorough public consultation with property owners on Maple Hill Road and that residents be given enough time to voice their feedback through a public meeting.

Although town council is still a ways off from formally debating where an interim snowmobile route could go, Mayor Peter McIsaac said he was not in favour of seeing Maple Hill Road become a designated OFSC trail.

McIsaac said his reasons for opposing the designation were similar to Gradeen's which were there is an increased risk for injuries because of the nature of the road and for the people who use it.

Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative, The North Bay Nugget