Woodstock to return barricades to walking trail

·3 min read

Town crews will soon return the barricades blocking motorized traffic access to the NB Trail system through Woodstock.

At the Tuesday, Sept. 28 meeting, council approved the return of the barricades as part of a temporary lease of the trail. The barriers limit trail use to walkers, joggers, and cyclists while blocking motorized traffic access such as all-terrain vehicles and dirt bikes.

The town removed the barricades last spring upon questions about liability.

Woodstock Director of Development and Planning Andrew Garnett delivered a brief overview of the application process to the Department of Natural Resources to arrange the lease, which he noted required a $2 million liability insurance policy. In response to a question from Deputy Mayor Amy Anderson, Garnett said the policy is not out of line with most of the town's liability policies.

The walking trail issue is part of an ongoing town study related to off-road-vehicle traffic access to Woodstock trails and streets.

An ad hoc committee composed of Garnett, Tourism Director Tobi Pirie and Woodstock Police Force Chief Gary Forward recently delivered a report to council with recommendations for a pilot project dealing with off-road-vehicle traffic through town.

Coun. Trina Jones said last night's short-term decision on the trail barriers should be kept separate from the long-term elements surrounding the pilot project.

She recommended replacing the barriers as soon as possible, adding she hopes council will have a long-term plan in place by next spring.

Coun. Norm Brown noted the barriers would only be in place until Dec. 15, when the local snowmobile club's annual winter lease begins.

Mayor Art Slipp said council's decision at Tuesday's meeting involved only the immediate placement of gates or barricades.

He said the town would look at replacing the current cement blocks with gates.

Jones said it didn't matter if the town used gates or a return of the large cement blocks, as long as the barrier was re-installed as soon as possible.

The walking trail, which runs parallel to the St. John River from downtown to Upper Woodstock, has been part of an ongoing controversy for several years. Those who use the trail for walking, jogging or cycling, and residents who live near it, argue for keeping it free of motorized traffic.

Off-road vehicle enthusiasts want access to the trail to get through town. The ad hoc committee, and the upcoming decision of a pilot project, will consider the use of the trail, along with the potential use of town streets to provide off-road-vehicle riders access to town businesses, such as restaurants and gas stations.

Garnett said the length of the lease, which provides the town control to a portion of the NB Trail, will depend on council's decision regarding the ad hoc committee report and pilot project.

He said it could be a long-term lease if council decides on that option.

While the town didn't have the barricades in place Wednesday morning, work crews denied everyone access to the old downtown train bridge portion of the trail. Barriers blocked both ends of the bridge over the Meduxnekeag as a backhoe, and crew members repaired the trail leading to the bridge's north end behind Woodstock Farm Market.

The construction team placed a concrete retaining wall along the trail at the entrance of the bridge.

Several morning walkers entered and exited the trail at the other side of the Woodstock Farm Market to enjoy a stroll upriver toward Upper Woodstock.

Errol Smith and his best friend, black lab McGee, were among those out for a walk. He said they use the trail a lot. Since the barricades came down in early summer, Smith said he and McGee encountered several ATVs during their walks.

Most riders he said were courteous and friendly, noting it's the few bad ones who ruin it for the many.

Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, River Valley Sun

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