by Gretta Bradley
I think if everyone were being honest, they would admit that mechanized and non-mechanized recreational activities are not really compatible. Hikers, cyclists, dog walkers etc. have a different purpose than snowmobilers, ATV users and dirt bikers. The first group tends to value the peace and quiet of the trail for exercise and fresh air. The second seem to enjoy the thrill of speeding along from one destination to the next. Unfortunately, it is difficult for the two to co-exist and still enjoy the experience equally.
Snowmobiling is not my thing, but I imagine cross-country skiing or cycling is not everyone’s cup of tea either. When I heard that a plan already existed where part of the rail bed would be used for a non-mechanized trail and part would be used for mechanized vehicles, I couldn’t help but think that this is a solution that everyone could live with.
A paved, non-mechanized trail through Carleton Place and Almonte could be set aside for the use of hikers, dog walkers, families with children, cyclists and accessible to those people with mobility issues. It would be the only trail of its kind in Lanark. A trail more suitable for the use of mechanized vehicles could circumvent the more populated areas of Carleton Place and Almonte to join up with the hundreds of miles of snowmobile trails connecting to almost every town in Ontario.
I wouldn’t comment on mechanized trails because those who use the existing system already seem to know what they want. The non-mechanized trail could be an economic generator and showcase Lanark County. Groups could be solicited to create points of interest along the way. Perhaps our birding community could build and maintain bird houses, hang bird feeders with local businesses sponsoring the seed to fill them or plant trees and bushes to improve the habitat for birds along the bed. Promoting bird watching has been proven to bring revenue to restaurants and shops of local towns where trails exist. Ottawa cyclists have already discovered this part of Lanark County. A cycling trail could incorporate Almonte’s Farmer’s Market, heritage district and River Walk and Carleton Place’s Farmer’s Market, mills and historic downtown. Promoting tours of our locally produced craft beers, artisans and artists could be lucrative. Small towns such as Clayton, not on the rail bed, could be included in this larger economic strategy.
If the county were serious about serving the needs of all the people who live in Lanark, they would drop the squidgy use of the term “multipurpose” and develop the rail bed into 2 kinds of trails. The development of the rail bed not need set one group against the other. Everyone can use the rail bed, just not in the same places.