Eganville – With winter a few months away, cottagers and permanent residents on Tranquility Bay on Golden Lake are worried about access to their properties in inclement weather and are looking at turning the abandoned railway bed into a road with the possibility of purchasing the stretch.
“The solution we do have is to use the railway bed which runs west from Tranquility Bay Road out to Zadow,” Barry O’Reilly of the Tranquility Bay Cottagers Association told Bonnechere Valley council during a committee meeting on Tuesday. “It is a one kilometre stretch which is nice and level.”
The issue of access to Tranquility Bay and the cottages at the bottom of a steep hill, which runs from Hoffman Road, has been an issue for many years but became more so of one in the last few years when access through Pikwakanagan was blocked. The old CN railway bed runs through both Pikwakanagan and BV (South Algona) but while in BV it is used as a recreational trail for snowmobiles, ATVs, walkers and cyclists. In Pikwakanagan it is a full road known as Ininatig Inamo. Diane Schroer, the president of the Tranquility Bay Cottagers Association, explained now access is an issue.
“For many years our access via Ininatig Inamo Road from Chibekana Inamo to Tranquility Bay Drive has been undisputed,” she wrote in a letter to council. “However, as you know, that situation has changed and a gate has been installed that periodically prevents our
access to this route. As a result, we are never sure whether or not it will be open.”
She added there are permanent residents on the road with more anticipated.
“Our cottages are no longer summer residences but are becoming three season as well as permanent homes,” she stated. “As such, we are seeking to ensure year-round access and verification of the accessibility to emergency services.
“As you are well aware, using Tranquility Bay Drive Road is problematic for emergency vehicles due to road conditions especially in the winter,” she wrote. “Therefore, it is imperative that the access problem that we have been facing the last few years be resolved. We are asking that you help us establish a safe and undisputed passageway to our properties.” As the spokesman for the group, Mr. O’Reilly pointed out there have been cottages at the lake for 50 years.
“We continue to run into the same challenges we have had for many years and that is accessing our properties,” he said.
At this point, because of the blocking of the road at Pikwakanagan, residents never know if they can access their properties through Ininatig Inamo. This is a concern because the steep hill from Hoffman Road makes Tranquility Bay challenging and daunting to drive in winter. He said using the old railway bed makes the best sense for year-round uninterrupted access to the properties.
“We know that we will be able to upkeep that one-kilometre stretch should we be able to purchase that,” he said. “We would take full responsibility to access our properties.”
Mayor Jennifer Murphy said she went on a drive on the road and met with some of the property owners about the issue.
“Tranquility Bay right now is drivable, but it is treacherous,” she said. “I don’t think emergency vehicles would have a good time going down that hill.”
She said while Ininatig Inamo “is beautiful” the section in BV is very narrow and is also used by the Bonn Trae snowmobile club as part of the snowmobile trail. The township has an agreement which was most recently renewed a few years ago with the club for access.
“A lot of maintenance would have to be done to make it usable (for vehicles),” she added, noting there is nowhere to pull off if there is an oncoming vehicle because the abandoned railway bed is so narrow.
Mr. O’Reilly said the railway bed was recently graded by the snowmobile club and is wider now.
“You would not believe the difference on it,” he said, adding he met a vehicle while driving on it and was able to pass.
Councillor Jack Roesner asked what the issue was with access through Pikwakanagan and why it was being cut off.
“Why are they not forthcoming to let residents have access?” he asked.
Mayor Murphy, who noted she had to be very careful with her answer, said not all members of band council are opposing access.
“Some members of the council do not feel it is appropriate for the residents to be accessing the reserve from there,” she said.
Councillor Merv Buckwald added there are some other issues as well.
“The one thing that seems to be hiding there also, it seems the First Nation feel they own Tranquility Bay Road,” he said.
There are some properties belonging to Pikwakanagan on the road and the band feels they have a registration or claim against title for passage, he said.
“There is some confusion about that as well which we have to look into,” Mayor Murphy noted.
BV Road Supervisor Jason Zohr said while some areas of the railway bed are about 19 feet wide, some are just 14 feet wide.
“If it has been graded it probably would be very passable,” he said.
The road would have to be improved and widened to be considered drivable and there could be culverts there to be dealt with for water drainage, he added.
Councillor Tim Schison said there could be a possibility of sharing the road with the property owners and the snowmobile club.
“If they can pass one another, a lot of our roads have a snowmobile trail next to them,” he said.
There are many circumstances where snowmobile clubs allow access for trucking, logging or other purposes, he noted.
Coun. Roesner asked about the contract with Bonn Trae. He pointed out the club has trails and if they no longer have access, it could be a problem and major re-routing.
CAO Annette Gilchrist said there is a 60-day termination clause.
He also expressed concern about the responsibility the township has with the trail if it becomes a road.
“If we are keeping ownership and get them (the cottage association) to do work on it, it has to be up to our standards,” he said. “If not, you are opening your door up (for liability).”
Bonn Trae currently pays insurance for the stretch while the township owns it, council was informed.
“I’ve driven it with a snowmobile and I’ve driven it with a truck. I know the trail and there is a little bit of work involved if you are going to widen it,” Coun. Roesner said.
Mayor Murphy asked Mr. Zohr for his advice. He said they should get in touch with Bonn Trae to see how wide the stretch would have to be for safe passage of vehicles and snowmobiles.
“I would love it if Bonn Trae would say ‘yes, we could share the road’ and if the cottage association is willing to work with BV with maintenance and fill,” the mayor noted.
Coun. Schison asked if there is surplus fill in roadwork projects and noted that could be dumped on this area to help bring the road up.
“Would it be a place for us to use it as a dump for fill?” he asked.
Mr. O’Reilly said he felt very positive about the reception to the idea and noted sharing the road could work.
“There is a two kilometer stretch near Killaloe where it is shared,” he said.
Coun. Roesner said council should be cautious about selling the stretch and said more work would have to be done to look at the cost of making the railway bed a passable road and going back to the cottage association about their commitment to the cost. Coun. Schison agreed no final decision had been made. “This is putting the oars in the water,” he said.
Mayor Murphy said while it appeared council agreed this was “doable” the next step is contacting Bonn Trae and discussing the shared road/trail idea first.
Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader