THUNDER BAY, ONT. — A non-motorized recreational trail for three of the four seasons is closer to reality in O’Connor Township and bordering Conmee Township.
At two of the past three O’Connor council meetings, Fleming Road — the border road between O’Connor and Conmee — is being proposed as part of the Kakabeka Falls to Shabaqua Trail Route.
Both townships are tentatively in favour of the lengthened route, but more work still has to be done.
“It’s a work in progress,” said O’Connor Mayor Jim Vezina. “We like the concept. (The Northwestern Ontario Recreational Trails Association and the townships) are sharing the trail. There’s some areas that aren’t going to be on the trail and some that are.
“We’re not involved in the planning of this at all. Literally, (The Northwestern Ontario Recreational Trails Association) came to us to ask us our permission and, in general, we’re in favour of it.
“It’s like anything else. We’ve got to make sure the legalities stuff is taken care of and our ducks are all in a row. That’s kind of a stage we are at right now. (Len Day of The Northwestern Ontario Recreational Trails Association) came to council a couple of meetings back and we said, ‘Yeah, we’re good with this’, but some of the areas are boundries with other municipalities, so before we’re going to get too deep, make sure you have those municipalities on board too.”
Vezina heard at a July 12 meeting that Conmee was tentatively on board as well.
“Basically, Conmee is in agreement with it in principle too, so now it’s a matter of us looking at the legal side of it,” said Vezina, who has been the O’Connor mayor since 2015. “We don’t mind supporting it, but we’re not going to pay for it and we’re not going to take liability for it.
“To me it looks like a wonderful idea, it looks like it will go through, but I’m not 100 per cent sure when all the i’s and t’s will be crossed and dotted.”
The trail will be used for hiking and biking through spring, summer and fall, while Thunder Bay Adventure Trails will rev up their snowmobiles during the winter.
Vezina said it’s the close relationship with the surrounding townships and municipalities that makes projects like this work.
“We do — extremely close — and it’s a necessity,” said Vezina, who was also an O’Connor councillor from 2006 to 2015 when he took over the mayoral job from the late Ron Nelson.
It’s a scale of economies. We can’t afford to do what the city of Thunder Bay does. We don’t have the staffing for that. But we are legislated the same (as Thunder Bay). In the eyes of the province, there’s no difference between us. . . . If the province says you’ve got to jump, we’ve got to jump, just like the city does.
“Us rural people, we just work together and share the load. We’re all basically going to say the same thing at the end of the day. Maybe if it’s a numeric thing, our numbers might be higher or lower than somebody else, the reporting is almost all the same. If our staffs all get together and work in the background, we can share the workload and get it done.”
Vezina was also excited about the proposed concrete pad for the hockey rink through a funding partnership with the province.
“We’re very limited on what we can offer our residents for recreation, so if we can improve the amount of time that people can use the rink and make a nicer surface, then that’s awesome,” informed Vezina.
John Nagy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal