Tay council vacillates between yea and nay on winter trail maintenance

·5 min read

Residents will now be able to enjoy sections of the Tay Trail that go through their settlement areas.

At a recent meeting, council approved winter maintenance for stretches in Victoria Harbour, Waubaushene and Port McNicoll.

The idea had been tossed around a few times before, but turned down and then brought up, only to be turned down earlier this month.

The matter was reconsidered a fourth time to finally be approved, but not before a little bit of blame was thrown around the table.

"I question my colleagues if they were just as confused by the most recent vote corresponding with the decision to deny the options by staff," said Deputy Mayor Gerard LaChapelle, who had brought the idea up again.

"This vote changed both the intent and direction from the previous decision made by council. It is my belief that the original request to clear sections of the trail in the three communities was approved by council at a December meeting.

"While I voted against clearing sections of the trail at this meeting, for fear of potential damage that may occur, as we well as the burden it may put on staff to maintain a safe and passable walking trail," he added, "the final direction, I believe, from council was that staff was to review areas of the trail for what would be the best suited to clear for walking, cost, location, and procedure needed before moving forward to maintain a trail."

Recognizing what has transpired so far, LaChapelle said, "I find it necessary to further discuss the option presented by staff in accordance with the rules that govern us to be fair and honest decision makers. We agreed to clear sections of the trail for our residents' use, (and) I believe we were wrong in how we dealt with this issue, even though I voted against the idea.

"We should accept the intent of the original motion that we passed in December and proceed with clearing sections of the trail presented by staff for this year only," he concluded.

Where LaChapelle was cautious in naming names, Coun. Barry Norris was a bit more open.

"The December 16 vote was very clear that we were to maintain sections of the trail" he said. "That’s the way I believed it was going through. When it came back at the January meeting, Coun. (Mary) Warnock began reiterating everything that came up at the December 16 meeting. I was confused that I was missing something from the December 16 meeting."

Coun. Sandy Talbot said the mishandling of the situation has jeopardized people's access to the trail.

"I feel that with this delay, it’s almost February, and here we are talking about something that could have been done months ago," she said. "Let’s move forward."

Warnock felt compelled to offer an explanation following Norris' comment.

"I kind of get the feeling I'm the one that put the crank in everything...," she began, when Talbot, who hadn't muted her mic interjected with, "You did."

The latter immediately apologized to Warnock, who tried to laugh off the interruption.

"When I read the recommendation," she continued, "(it said) staff be directed to reduce sections and lengths of the trails to be groomed for the purpose of walking and that staff review options on how to maintain it outsource for a one-time frequency."

Warnock said there was no information on how the recommendation was going to be executed.

"My objections came (around) how they were going to do what we’d asked them to do," she said. "The recommendation certainly wasn’t clear to me. That's why my mind changed when I saw how they were going to clear it and what machinery they were going to use, how much it was going to cost."

Warnock said she made the decision based on the information that had come forward.

"But to hang it on me," she added, "I'm sorry...I did what I felt was right with the information given to me. And if there was a problem when the vote went through, it should have been brought up by staff at that time for clarification."

Coun. Jeff Bumstead said he had had similar objections to the latest report.

"For me, when the recommendation came back from staff, I didn’t agree with the option part of it," he said. "Staff came up with criteria, including narrow sidewalks, not removing barricades (in some parts). I asked questions about the width of the trail being cleared and those weren’t answered clearly. That’s why I voted no."

Mayor Ted Walker said he was also very disappointed.

"We’ve got 18.5 kilometres of trail and we were asking for about three or four (kms) to be cleared for walkers," he said. "Everybody seems to be concerned about the skiers. There’s still plenty of room for skiers. Some people can’t afford skiing. Some people aren't in physical condition to ski."

Walker pointed out that a large number of people that signed a recent petition are those that don’t have sidewalks near their homes.

"Their concern was a place to walk, rather than the road," he said. "Concerning damage to the trail, it was asked as a one-time thing. If we're so worried about things being travelled on and damaged, then let's get rid of all our roads. We upgrade a road but then we don’t say we’re not going to have any cars on it because it will damage it."

At the end of the discussion, staff was directed to begin with the one-time only winter maintenance program on sections of the trail when it snows next, finding a way to pack the trail and not clean it down to the asphalt.

Waubaushene section:

Pine Street to Coldwater Road (approx. 0.9km)

Victoria Harbour section:

Bass Bay Drive to Caswell Road (approx. 1.5km)

Port McNicoll section:

First Avenue Trail – Davidson Street to Aprin Street (approx. 0.8km)

Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com