Interim Lanark County decision on Almonte rail trail

3

Lanark County Council votes to keep the Ottawa Valley Rail Trail closed in downtown Almonte for up to five years

by Don Johnston

At its meeting on September 6, Lanark County Council (LCC) voted to enter into an agreement with the snowmobile association to use and manage the Ottawa Valley Rail Trail (OVRT) throughout the County for five years, except for the bridge within Almonte, which would remain closed during the life of the agreement. If the repairs to the bridge in Almonte are completed sooner, the LCC could vote to open that portion of the trail to any users, including snowmobiles.

An amendment was proposed by Mayor McLaughlin, adopted by LCC, that extended the closed portion of the OVRT from John Street to Carrs Street. Without this amendment, snowmobiles and other motorized recreational vehicles would have been able to approach Bridge Street and Main Street during the period of the agreement.

In the meantime, the report from Mississippi Mills proposing a bypass around Almonte for motorized recreation vehicles remains in limbo at the County.

On August 23rd, Mississippi Mills provided its report to the Lanark County Council Economic Development Committee (EDC)  giving its position on the future use of the Ottawa Valley Rail Trail (OVRT) including the enhancement of the existing bypass around Almonte for motorized vehicles.

The EDC voted to accept the report for ‘information only’ and decided not to refer it to County staff. This left the report with uncertain status at the County. Without Lanark County Council (LCC) approval of the recommendations contained in the report, the plan to make the entire trail multi-use (i.e. ‘motorized’) remains in place.

LCC had originally sought comments from all jurisdictions in the County as part of its public consultation process on the future use of OVRT, which started in January 2017.  In late May, and with an official response from Mississippi Mills not yet received, LCC passed a motion making the OVRT Multi-Use (motorized) throughout the County. However, it also voted to allow municipalities to reroute motorized users around urban-core areas subject to its approval and on condition that the municipality would pay for the additional costs involved.

The Mississippi Mills report, developed by an all-user task group under the auspices of the Mississippi Mills Council, recommended that the OVRT be ‘motor-free’ within the boundaries of Almonte and that the municipality work with the snowmobile clubs to develop a ‘by-pass’ using the current snowmobile trail to the north of Almonte near the traffic circle.