TBM council concerned about idea to pave Georgian Trail

Is it time for The Blue Mountains to consider paving its portion of the Georgian Trail? That's one of the questions pondered by town council as it got a look at the final draft of the town's transportation master plan on Nov. 1.

Town staff presented the master plan to council at the meeting. The transportation master plan has been in development for some time, with the process including extensive public consultations. One of the recommendations is to consider paving the town's portion of the popular recreational trail in the future.

The Georgian Trail runs from Meaford to Collingwood as a non-motorized recreational trail. It's currently covered in crushed limestone. Each municipality along the trail is charged with maintenance for the portion of the trail within municipal boundaries.

Members of council were generally pleased to see all the work done on the plan come to fruition.

“It’s a banner day to be at this point,” said Coun. Paula Hope.

Coun. Rob Sampson thanked staff for their efforts to deliver the report.

“Thank you for the work you’ve done. It has not been easy with all the balls in the air,” said Sampson.

The report did generate some concerns and discussion around the idea of paving the trail, the future of Highway 26 and how local Grey County roads can be integrated into the town’s transportation plans.

Hope expressed concerns about paving the Georgian Trail.

“When you pave the trail – that changes things a lot. I don’t think the public is aware of that initiative,” she said, and asked if the future paving of the trail was required for accessibility reasons.

Project coordinator Adam Fraser said there is no accessibility requirement to pave the trail. He said the recommendation for the paving is one way to help achieve the plan’s overall goal of getting cars off the road by supporting alternative transportation. Stantec consultant Joe Olsen, who worked on the development of the plan, said the Georgian Trail is the town’s best east-west route, other than the shoulder of Highway 26.

Fraser said the plan envisions a 20-year horizon for the town and the recommendation to pave the trail doesn’t mean it will happen anytime soon.

“These are ways we can achieve some of the goals we have in this plan,” he said.

Hope said the town would have to be careful with paving plans for the trail.

“I’m not sure the community is ready, personally, I’m not. The idea of paving the trail encourages speed and the character of the community will be affected by paving,” she said.

Sampson said the “elephant in the room” was the future of Highway 26.

“I’m pleased to see, in the report, us hinting we’d like the province to engage in a regional study (for Highway 26),” said Sampson. “Let’s try and integrate better with Meaford, Collingwood and South Georgian Bay.”

Fraser said the Ministry of Transportation was consulted about the report and is aware of the concerns.

“We are looking to them to be the regional lead. We are working with south Georgian Bay municipalities to push for this,” he said.

Sampson also noted that the town needed further talks with Grey County about local upper-tier roads.

“The county sees (County Road) 19 as a non-pedestrian route. We need them to rethink that. It may have been non-pedestrian years ago, but it ain’t now. Let’s reflect the reality,” he said.

Mayor Alar Soever pointed out that a county effort to establish a transportation plan failed a number of years ago and that process needs to be resurrected.

“We were told at county council that pedestrians don’t belong on county roads. As we know, particularly in the Village, they are on county roads. There are a lot of county roads that are becoming urbanized and there are no urban standards for county roads,” said Soever.

The mayor raised the spectre of road swaps recommended with the county to give the town more control over key transportation routes in the community.

Soever also noted that the plan identifies a number of capital projects for the future.

“How many of them are in our asset management plan? Is this going to require a rethink of our asset management plan?” Soever asked.

Director of Operations Shawn Carey said the implementation plan for the transportation master plan will be an important document. Carey explained that the master plan identifies projects for the future, but that those projects would not be done in “isolation.” Rather, they would be done in conjunction with other work. For example: the Alice Street water main replacement job will include master plan ideas for the road.

“We’re going to be knitting all these master plans together,” said Carey.

Council voted 5-0 (Deputy Mayor Peter Bordignon was absent) in favour of receiving the plan, but asked that the Georgian Trail paving project be lower on the list of priorities. The plan will come to the Nov. 14 council meeting for final approval.

Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca