A request from a long-time Port McNicoll resident could present a winter activities opportunity to people living along 1st Avenue.
Joyce Burns is asking that the sidewalk/trail along the entirety of the busy road be plowed for safe winter use.
She presented her case through a letter that Coun. Sandy Talbot read to other council members at a recent council meeting.
"The mental health benefits of having it plowed is that young families can still walk and run it safely as can all the people that use it,” Burns wrote. “They will be able to use it to teach them how to cross-country ski safely when the conditions are good.
“The kids that catch the buses on 1st Avenue will have a safe place to walk to get back and forth and also when they're waiting for their buses,” continued the letter. “With COVID still around this winter, people will be able to get out and enjoy the sidewalk/trail, like they have in spring and summer. They will see wildlife and birds and even a decorated Christmas tree on the sidewalk trail to brighten their day.”
Burns also said in her letter that she’d counted eight sidewalks in Port McNicoll that she believes are plowed.
“They plow Talbot (Street) to Davidson (Street), a two block section,” she noted in her letter. “Why not all the way down 1st Avenue? I'm hoping there will be a positive outcome to this. I don't expect it to be as wide as it is now. If it is plowed like the rest of the sidewalks, that would be great."
Talbot said she had no problem supporting the request considering the cost the township would incur.
“I think sometimes we have to think outside the box and there will be an increase in cost if there's an increase in service level,” she said. “It's well-utilized. Other people have trails in other communities and they make skating rinks out of them so they're multi-purpose uses.”
Coun. Paul Raymond supported the idea, but also brought forth concerns.
“We have a growth of young families down by that area and they are increasingly using the road or the trail in summer time,” he said. "My only concern with cleaning the trail off is that in winter we have motorized vehicles ripping up and down there. What happens if we open it up and see some destruction because of these vehicles? I think we have to put some more thought into the whole thing.”
Mayor Ted Walker, who also backed the request, said the snowmobile issue could be mitigated by a 'No Snowmobiles' sign as is done in other areas.
“I'd be open for a one-year trial,” he added.
Where Talbot had a few peers in her corner, Coun. Barry Norris was at the other of the spectrum on the issue.
“Seriously?” he asked. “Why don't we clear the whole trail then? It makes no sense. I'm sorry we're not here to turn around and allow all of this? We're talking about a two-mile sidewalk to allow a couple of pedestrians to walk it.
“I don't support it one iota,” continued Norris. “I think there is a policy in place as to what sidewalks we actually do and I doubt this is actually going to be covered under it.”
And not to mention the costs of having to maintain it with sand, he said.
“There's more to it than just clearing it off,” said Norris. “What's the rough cost on it?”
Staff didn’t have an immediate answer as to how much it would cost to clear the two-kilometre pathway and were asked to bring back a report to a December meeting for a final decision.
When asked for her reaction to council's decision, Burns wrote in, "I'm hopeful that council will go ahead with plowing 1st Ave., but if not, that will be alright ... I'll try again for next year."
Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com