Wilderness Tours founder calls for reduced speed limit on busy road

·3 min read

Cobden -- The founder and president of Wilderness Tours has requested Whitewater Region council to reduce the speed limit on a two-km stretch of Grant Settlement Road from the current 80 kph to 50 kph.

Joe Kowalski calls it “the busiest tourism road in the Ottawa Valley from May to Thanksgiving.”

“My focus has always been the river, and still is, but in the past several years it also is our roads and our trails,” he said at the May 8 council meeting.

The whitewater rafting business now operates out of the former River Run location at 1260 Grants Settlement Road.

“Within 100 metres there is our road, another road where we provide access for paddlers, and McCoy Road,” he said. “Within those three roads there are about 400 to 500 cars turning in and out of them every busy day of the summer. Just north of our location there are what we call the S-curves.”

He provided a map of that stretch of road showing two red crosses denoting the locations of two fatalities in recent years and a number of yellow crosses showing non-fatal accidents.

“There is the potential to make Whitewater Region equally famous for cycling and mountain biking (as for whitewater recreation), but those S-curves are very dangerous,” he said.

He noted most local people, being aware of the danger, do not speed on that road but adhere to the cautionary speeds posted on various signs.

“But I can tell you that most non-locals don’t follow those recommended speeds,” he said.

He added many paddlers, as part of their fitness regime, will run back to their vehicles after navigating the rapids, while others have a bicycle available for that purpose.

Mr. Kowalski is calling for the 50 kph speed limit for the stretch of road encompassing the S-curves and the three sideroad entrances he named.

“My recommendation is that Whitewater council study this,” he said. “It’s common sense; it won’t hurt anybody; it’s 2 km. It would solve a lot of problems and continue to make Whitewater Region the greatest place on earth.”

Councillor Chris Olmstead noted the road to the east and south of the Wilderness Tours entrance is almost as dangerous as the S-curves.

“I would like to see it extended to a four to five-km stretch at 60 kph,” he said. “I know there’s a law that only allows speed limit reductions by 20 to 30 km increments, say from 90 to 70 to 50; not from 90 to 50.”

Councillor Joe Trimm acknowledged the recommendation is being made in the interest of safety.

“But I also think going to 50 will be a struggle,” he said. “Sixty would be slower and safer, and would be easier to enforce.”

“I agree with 60 but 50 would be difficult,” added Councillor Connie Tabbert. “Why not 60 for the whole road?”

Councillor Mike Moore concurred that more information will be required for council to make a decision.

“But it’s definitely on our agenda,” he assured Mr. Kowalski.

CAO Ivan Burton said staff will research the legalities related to Mr. Kowalski’s recommendation and report back to council.

“We are coming into the busy season and I hope we can bring something back to council sooner rather than later,” said Deputy-Mayor Cathy Regier

Marie Zettler, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader