The rail bed should be developed as a recreational trail

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by Brad Jones

Imagine a new local attraction that will boost tourism, increase economic activity for downtown merchants and encourage greater community ties between Mississippi Mills and Carleton Place.

A local citizens’ group, Friends of OVRT, is speaking to community leaders about their vision for the development of approximately 30 kms of the rail trail into a non-motorized recreational trail from Pakenham, through Almonte, to Carleton Place.

Friends of OVRT (www.rail-trail.ca) are encouraging the public to learn more about the County’s plan to develop the trail at Thursday’s Open House, at the Almonte Old Town Hall, were both members and supporters of the group will be present. The group is also before Mississippi Mills Council on Tuesday, February 21 and will also make presentations to the Carleton Place Council and the County Council in the weeks ahead.

Chris George, Friends of OVRT spokesperson states, “There is a need for a recreational, non-motorized trail in our area. We would like to see the rail trail developed as a new attraction for the downtown cores of Mississippi Mills and Carleton Place communities. It has great tourism potential and the trail will provide safe commuting for students, runners, and those who wish to cycle or hike between the communities.”

Mr. George points out that Lanark County boasts extensive snowmobile trails and off-road routes for ATVs, quads and trail bikes, including the use of County roads. “We are fortunate to have a great trail infrastructure already in place for snowmobiles and ATVs. With the rail trail, we are interested in developing another tourism and economic offering. It’s not either-or for our communities, but the opportunity for us to have both.”

A non-motorized, recreational trail will be “a new asset” in the region. It will have tremendous economic and social benefits, like similar trails have in Ottawa, Gatineau, Niagara, along the St. Lawrence Seaway, and in western Quebec.

The trail, between and in Carleton Place and Mississippi Mills, establishes a new circuit route for cycle tourism from the National Capital Region because it can close loops with existing Ottawa cycling trails from the TransCanada trail and West Carleton.

Friends of OVRT is advocating for a friendly path that provides a safe route and encourages greater choices of physical activities for all recreational users of all ages. The group has concerns about the County’s proposed shared trail model because motorized use of a trail does not mix with other users groups. Users most affected by the presence of motorized vehicles are young families, the elderly and persons with disabilities. Some users groups participation drops by 50% while others stop altogether.

Landowners are also worried about their property values as studies indicate a motorized trail may decrease adjacent land values by 13%; whereas, properties near a non-motorized trail see an increase of up to 15% in property values – that’s a potential 28% swing in property values!

Friends of OVRT encourages residents and community groups to attend the open houses and speak out on how the new trail will be developed. Mr. George observes, “County Council will have to address the fact that the trail in our urban communities is different than the stretches of trail running through Ottawa Valley fields and forests. It’s running through the heart of our communities, through our neighbourhoods, by our homes and crossing our streets. We should have a say on development of the trail and the Open House provides us a good opportunity,” stated Mr. George.

Lanark County’s Open House of the development of the rail trail is Thursday, February 16 at the Amonte Old Town Hall from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

This release is written by Friends of the OVRT. Visit www.rail-trail.ca or visit the Facebook page to learn more about the group.