The Georgian Bay Snowriders Association will be given one-time only conditional access to a section of the Tay Shore Trail.
The availability will depend on the quality of a section of the trail they currently use along Highway 12, near Triple Bay Road.
The matter had been brought to Tay council a couple times last year, when the request was turned down. The association returned this year offering $2,000 in security deposit to ensure the utmost care of the trail. The group also offered to groom sections of the trail for free.
None of that seemed to appease council, it seemed, as it sent staff back to the association with some questions.
"The first item was whether the club would be interested in paying for the cost of screenings if we decided to do that," said Bryan Anderson, manager of parks, recreation and facility services. "They say they would not. Staff also think putting screens in at this point would be moot point. We've received quite an amount of snow so we would have to scrape it off to put in screens."
The second item council wanted was signage.
"The club would install all signs, stop signs, and slow down signs," said Anderson. "The posted speed would be 20km. The next one was about patrols. The club doesn't patrol speed and the OPP places speed surveillance on the trails. The club did say they have seen an enhanced amount of OPP patrols. That could serve to deter individuals from speeding."
He added that staff had also asked to confirm the Snowriders only wanted temporary one-time use for this season.
"The response was they do understand and agree it's temporary for this season, but they'd like us to review the trail for any damage or issues at the end of the season and then they will come back to council for permanent use," Anderson said, adding this was what the previous president of the association had told him, however, their leadership has since changed. Staff would have to reaffirm all this with the new president.
But that didn't seem to matter to council.
"We leave it as it is subject to the condition change that they coordinate the use of our section through Mr. Anderson," said Deputy Mayor Gerard LaChapelle. "As long as they have the ability to use theirs' and use ours' as back up, I'd support the move."
Mayor Ted Walker asked what other forms of help the township could offer the Snowriders.
"I did ask them if they were able to receive a work permit from the MTO (Ministry of Transportation Ontario), we would be happy to truck some snow there (to pack up the area)," said Anderson.
Coun. Mary Warnock said where she was all about cooperating with the group, she did have some concerns.
"They are an important part of the community," she said, adding, "Here's my issue, especially at this section of the trail, it's very narrow. People park their cars there and walk their dogs on the trail. And they would have no notice of a snowmobile coming around the corner. I think we're opening ourselves up to big safety concerns by allowing this."
LaChapelle was of the opinion that the township already cooperates with them.
"At some point, this council has to make a stance," he said. "This has been an ongoing issue and they have to do their due diligence. To me, this is their issue, not ours. I don't want to be dealing with this every year. They are required to improve their situation and not rely on us. We need to send them a notice that when this year is over, they have to get their house in order."
The contingency plan option was something Coun. Paul Raymond said he could support.
"I have full confidence in staff that if they feel something is going to happen to our trails, they would act on it immediately," he added.
Coun. Jeff Bumstead wanted council to consider putting down screenings in the section.
LaChapelle explained why that wouldn't be a good idea.
"With screenings, we'll only be damaging the trail," he said. "Because you'd have to go down to asphalt to do it. I'm going to suggest you don't want to remove it down to the asphalt and put in screenings, as Mr. Anderson has indicated, when the groomer comes through, it's going to damage the trail."
In terms of protecting the trail, Anderson said staff would keep a close eye on it.
"If there's any sign of asphalt on our trails, I wouldn't allow them to run on the trail," he said.
At the end of the day, council approved the one-time use of the Tay Shore Trail by the Snowriders on a contingency basis and delegated authority to staff to determine when this use may occur and cease if usage of the trail is detrimental to the condition of the Tay Shore Trail.
The association did not provide comment by publication time.
Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com