Be proactive or lose voice on rail line use

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by Shaun McLaughlin

Since Canadian Pacific tore up its tracks through most of Mississippi Mills this past summer, several people have complained to me about ATVs and dirt bikes whizzing past their homes. We do face a clash of user values over the use of the rail bed. Council should not ignore that reality.

Like the Appleton Wetlands demise I discussed previously and the pending Enerdu hydro project, this is another example of an issue important to residents that town Council has not debated. While we do not have jurisdiction over any of those issues, Council should express an official opinion.

CP still owns the rail line. Lanark and Renfrew counties formed a joint committee to negotiate with CP over the future use of the line. Mississippi Mills is not a member of that committee, even though a majority of the Lanark portion is within our boundaries. To its credit, Mississippi Mills Council did send a letter asking for membership on that committee. The Lanark County warden turned us down.

At the Finance & Administration Committee meeting October 18, I urged my colleagues to take the next step. I suggested we form a citizen-oriented advisory committee, similar to the now disbanded Riverwalk Committee, to develop a Mississippi Mills-oriented approach to the use of the rail bed as a trail.

I said: “If we do not tell them what we want, we will have to settle for what we get.” After a few remarks from councillors—the gist was that any discussion was premature—the chair moved us to the next item on the agenda.

I sense a lost opportunity. If we are not proactive and forceful, we will have no say on the use of this resource.