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Trans Canada Trail from 9th to 14th Line on centre stage tonight in Alliston

Posted March 3, 2014

The provincial and federal governments are matching each other's funding contributions to complete the Trans Canada Trail (TCT) as legacy projects starting with the Pan Am Games coming to Ontario in 2015, and the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017. One of the TCT network's largest missing links is in New Tecumseth leaving a noticeable gap between Caledon at Hwy 9 to Cookstown at Hwy 89 - though a municipally maintained trail is active between Hwy 9 to the Conservation Area in Tottenham.

Tonight, New Tecumseth Parks, Recreation, and Culture Director Ray Osmond, is scheduled to present a report that recommends moving forward with the TCT development from the 9th Line to the 14th Line beginning this spring, at an estimated cost of $630,000 in 2014 - funding sources includes $255,000 from parks and recreation DCs; $315,000 from TCT, and $60,000 from Simcoe County. Mr. Osmond's report shows the project will cost $525,000 in 2015; $225,000 in 2016; $150,000 in 2017; and $50,000 in 2018. In each of the years funding is sourced.

The preferred option and least expensive of the scenarios, would be a direct link following the Town-owned abandoned CN Rail line, which between Beeton and Alliston is also an infrastructure corridor for water, and wastewater pipelines. It would also be the route for the eventual water pipeline connection to Tottenham.

Trail development has been an off-and-on issue in New Tecumseth dating back to the early 1990s as part of local economic development initiatives, but local farmers and property owners abutting the right of way, have managed to beat back any progress beyond the council chamber discussions. Opposition voices aren't as many these days because of land speculators who've purchased thousands of acres of rural properties during the past decade. However, opponents continue to press their case, including Walter Davidson, of WD Potato LTD whose potato storage and distribution trucking company abuts the proposed TCT at 10 Sideroad, which "would make for very easy public access to our property," he wrote in an August 15, 2013 letter to the Town.

In the letter, Mr. Davidson references issues of public safety and personal and property liability as a result of daily vehicular traffic of 150-200 movements per day, which increases to more than 500 during the harvest period. He references security measures they use to protect their multi-million operation/investment, including controlling contamination of their trucks, which would be exposed if the TCT was developed as proposed.

"I would also ask why W.D. Potato Limited and the other farmers on the trail are treated any different from Honda and Gibson, as they do not permit trespassers on their portion of the tracks. We also have a long-term lease on our portion of the railway grounds, with the Town having access when needed. So I ask, would you like strangers walking through your backyard?" Mr. Davidson wrote. "We do not allow any unauthorized people to be on any parts of our property and leased properties without permission therefore no new trail will be going through our property..... The proposed trail was put to bed a few years back, why bring it up now?"

Mr. Osmond's report includes three options to deal with Mr. Davidson's concerns, including the preferred option to follow the Town owned right of way, which is the "Most direct and economical route." It would include fencing on both sides of the trail, pedestrian gates at driveway crossing, and signage noting the safety risks, and no trespassing warnings. A second option would divert the trail from the ROW to the east, approximately 167 metres along WD's secondary driveway, and skirting the property, before reconnecting to the ROW. In this scenario, Mr. Davidson would have to provide an easement. A third option would avoid Mr. Davidson's property by diverting the trail from the ROW to following 10th Line east to 10 Sideroad for 1,430 linear metres. This option also avoids having to upgrade/replace a bridge. This scenario sets up conflicts with multiple landowners/driveways, requires shoulder widening, and puts trail users at risk from oncoming traffic.

Expansion of the trail system through New Tecumseth routinely ranks high in the list of priorities residents are asked about in surveys, second only to the construction of an indoor pool.

A special meeting of council is scheduled to follow tonight's committee meeting to vote on Mr. Osmond's recommendations. If passed, the project would go to design and tender for spring construction.

Trans Canada Trail

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