Presented to council by David McClung august 22, 2017
As we all know, Haldimand County has been intending to build a scenic lookout on the old CNR rail bridge in Cayuga. Recently, this plan turned into a more ambitious project to build a trail westward from the bridge along the old railway corridor to link it to King George Street. The purpose of this link was to create a loop in an urban area, something identified as an implementation priority in the County Trails Master Plan (§4.4, p. 37). Presumably this loop would continue down King George Street and out to Highway 3 to join the Trails Master Plan’s ‘designated walking route’ (Fig. 4-3) and the Official Plan’s ‘Identified Trail Location’ (Schedule B.2) that loops back around to the Court House parking lot and the main trail head.
On December 6, 2016, County staff presented Council with a report (PED-GM-11-2016) on the technical and financial feasibility of developing the Cayuga Bridge and Rail Trail, including this link between the bridge and King George Street. The appended conceptual design clearly states that this link is to be built on the “existing railroad ballast rock” (Attachment 4, Part A, 1.5). It also states that trees were to be removed “within clear zones only” (1.4), ‘clear zones’ meaning the 3 m wide trail.
Some six months later I learned from another citizen that the railroad ballast rock had been removed from a long section of the proposed trail. Shocked, I went and took a look : not only had the ballast rock been removed, but the trees had been bulldozed across nearly the full width of the property, and high berms had been constructed along both sides that blocked the formerly pleasant views over the surrounding fields. In short, all the features that once made the property suitable for trail development had been completely destroyed!
I phoned the County office the next day, July 21, 2017, and was connected to Sandra Marsh, property coodinator. She assured me that the County did not yet own the lands in question. She also put me in touch with Sheila Wilson, who is in charge of the project. Ms. Wilson also assured me that the agreement to obtain the land had not yet been finalized. Then she added that she was aware of the ‘work’ that had been done on the future trail lands, that it had been done by the current owner, and that there was nothing the County could do about it. I suggested there was something the County could do about it : walk away from the deal because the land no longer possessed the features the County wanted. Surprisingly, Ms. Wilson responded to that suggestion by claiming that the changes actually helped the County because—since the trail had to be accessible—the removal of the ballast rock would help the County to slope the trail down to the level of King George Street.
Surprised, I asked Ms. Wilson if she had ever seen the property. She assured me that she had been out there and walked the trail. I found this statement rather odd given that King George Street is in fact about 2 m above the level of the old railway, so stone would have to be added—not taken away—to make the connection.
Clearly, Ms. Wilson was ill-informed about this $1.4 million project she is personally in charge of, and she also seemed unconcerned about issues raised by a citizen. Therefore, I simply said, “Well, I hope it all works out well in the end,” to which she responded, “It will.” End of conversation.
However, I was intrigued by Ms. Wilson’s statement that the trail had to be accessible, so I looked up the technical requirements for recreational trails in Ontario Regulation 191/11, section 80.9. There I found that all trails created by municipalities must be accessible, which means that among other things, neither the running slope nor the cross slope can be greater than 5%. So I decided to go look at where Ms. Wilson’s accessible link could go after it met King George Street. What I found was that an accessible trail can’t go anywhere from that point because if you turn right you encounter slopes of 6.25%, and if you turn left you encounter slopes as steep as 12.5%!
So this linking trail in fact can’t link to anything. And not only can the trail not go anywhere, but persons with a disability can’t get to the trail. The reason for prioritizing urban loops is so that users can get from their homes to the trail in pedestrian mode, without any carbon emissions. Well, a person with a disability cannot climb a 12.5% slope to get to that King George Street trail head.
So that got me to thinking about the other trail head near the Court House. I studied all seven entrances to the Cayuga Court House Grounds, and I found that none of them are accessible, for the following reasons :
|Ottawa Street sidewalk||stairs|
|Registry Office driveway||10.0% slope|
|County building back driveway||10.0% slope|
|County building front driveway||8.0% slope|
|Munsee Street sidewalk to Court House||stairs|
|Court House driveway||10.0% slope|
And this is without even mentioning the five additional barriers along the loop between the two trailheads.
Now, there may be something wrong with my thinking, but I don’t see why the County is building an accessible trail in an inaccessible location, and I don’t see any point in building a linking trail that can’t link to anything—especially when the removal of the ballast stone, the destruction of the trees, and the construction of berms have already made that link both way more expensive and not nearly so nice as we all thought it was going to be.
Sheila Wilson told me on July 24th that it would all work out well in the end. There’s still one way that this can happen : Council can direct Ms. Wilson to pull the plug on this link trail project immediately, before any more Community Vibrancy Funds are wasted.
Now I have three questions for Council :
1) As of today, August 22, 2017, has Haldimand County obtained title to the lands on which the link trail was to be built?
2) If not, then will Council immediately direct staff to stop negotiating to obtain those lands?
3) If Council is not willing to cancel the project, then will it at least direct staff to put the project on hold until a new budget has been brought forward that takes into account the increased cost caused by the removal of the ballast stone and the need to make the trailheads accessible from the community?