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Council deals significant blow to trail development, seek roadside route

Posted March 4, 2014

New Tecumseth council has rejected the preferred route to expand the Trans Canada Trail (TCT) along the Town-owned abandoned CN Rail right of way between the 9th and 14th Line, ordering instead alternative options that would push sections of the trail to rural roadsides.

The deviation from the proposed route comes after Walter Davidson of WD Potatoes Ltd told councillors last night that he could lose contracts if the trail was developed as proposed, (though he was not specific why, only referencing a letter that he asked if councillors had seen) and other farmers along the route, including Bob and Ross Reynolds who expressed concerns about "public safety" due to pesticide applications, irrigation "over-spray" and access onto their properties.

Ross Reynolds, who farms on the 12th Line, told council he wasn't opposed to the trail, but "not necessarily through a high risk area" due to "crop protection materials on each side.... because some of them have skull and crossbones across them."

Bob Reynolds, who ran unsuccessfully for then Ward 3councillor in 2006, said he was concerned the trail cutting through his 13th Line farm, could restrict future building on his property. Mr. Reynolds suggested that if the trail was going to proceed, that landowners along the line should be on the Town's insurance policy. Additionally, he wanted it in writing, that the Town would be responsible for maintaining the fences and ditches.

Mark McKnight told councillors he was concerned about the size of gates and fences to accommodate their large farming equipment, and the prospect of parked vehicles blocking their access.

Amanda Allen said they just built a chicken barn on their 14th Line property, and are worried about possible contamination, and the probable complaints from trail users about odors coming from their operation.

Leah Emms, Ontario Federation of Agriculture, Member Services Representative for Peel, Simcoe, and York, told councillors that they were not part of the process that developed the TCT plan, and there were legitimate concerns that were not taken into account.

"This (farming) just isn't a hobby here, this is their life," said Ms. Emms, adding the trail could lead to "constricting farm property owners of building their business."

Glen O'Leary, a candidate for deputy mayor, broke into a momentary shouting match with mayor Mike MacEachern after suggesting the Town had no money to afford the trails, suggesting fixing roads in Beeton or Alliston would be better spent funds.

Funding sources have already been identified including parks and recreation development charges, and government grants through the TCT legacy fund, which is part of the federal government's desire to see the entire trail completed in time to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of Confederation in 2017.

When the discussion turned to council, Ward 8's Jim Stone set the tone, suggesting the proposed trail through New Tecumseth was "different than any other place" because it cut through active farms in some sections.

"There's a real impasse here," said Mr. Stone, who proposed using the roadside as an alternate route.

Ward 5 councillor Donna Jebb said farmers are faced with a long list of regulations and safety measures that could be put in jeopardy if the trail was to dissect those operations. Ms. Jebb suggested using Mel Mitchell Field on the 9th Line in Beeton as a parking area, and following the road way, north to Randall (13th Line), stopping there, "until we can figure out" the next piece.

Paul Whiteside said after hearing Mr. Davidson's concerns, "we definitely should look at alternate routes." He also expressed issues with the costs to maintain the trail after it's developed.

"I think it's premature," he said.

"Tonight we're talking about alignment, and what makes sense," added the mayor, reminding councillors that trail development was approved by council, and money set aside to build it.

Ward 1 councillor Bob Marrs was alone in his opposition to use the roadway as part of the trail.

"I'm not going to ask people to walk along side of the road," said Mr. Marrs, adding, "95 per cent of the trail on the right of way is a slam dunk. We should be able to use it. Sure some people don't want it next door, but this is part of the Trans Canada Trail; we are one of the weakest links. These issues did not crop up yesterday. For the majority of the trail, we should be going ahead with it."

Deputy mayor Rick Milne said, "I have no problems in voting it (preferred route) down."

Ray Osmond, New Tecumseth's Director of Parks, Recreation and Culture, who is tasked now with drawing up alternative routes and report back March 31, said TCT has provided an extension to the funding deadline, but cautioned the project had to be complete by 2017. There is six km of municipal trail between Hwy 9 and Tottenham, but the link north to Cookstown was 20 km and unfinished. The section in question last night is estimated to cost $630,000 in 2014 - funding sources includes $255,000 from parks and recreation DCs; $315,000 from TCT, and $60,000 from Simcoe County. However, that would climb by tens of thousands of dollars if the roadsides are used because of shoulder widening and paving. 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.

Mayor MacEachern told Mr. Osmond he's expected to bring back "routes that respond to the comments you've heard this evening."

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