Medical Officer of Health endorses MM rail trail compromise

EDITOR’S NOTE: Councillor John Edwards has passed on this copy of a letter from the County’s Medical Officer of Health.


March 21, 2018

Warden and Councillors
Lanark County
99 Christie Lake Road
Perth, ON K7H 3C6

Dear Warden Fenik and Lanark County Councillors:

I understand that the Council will be considering, at the March 26, 2018 meeting, a proposal from Mississippi Mills to increase the accessibility of the trail through the Almonte Ward for all residents and visitors. From a public health perspective this makes a lot of sense, and this will honour Lanark County’s commitment that the trail is for all residents.

A paved trail is the preferred surface for the more vulnerable population (better for cycling, wheelchairs, walkers, strollers, people with varying physical and mental abilities). One in 15 people (6.5% of population aged 12+ years in our community) have some level of difficulty in their ability to walk ranging from “walking with difficulty” to “cannot walk at all”. This is higher among people over age 65, a population group that is increasing in our community.

Mississippi Mills’ commitment to pave the trail through this section, if their proposal is accepted, will make the trail accessible for these people. People will have the opportunity to be more physically active which has a direct impact on health.

People with slow reaction times whether due to hearing, vision or mobility problems, physical or intellectual disabilities or health problems will benefit from the safety of not having motorized vehicles on the trail while they are there. Four percent of the population aged 12+ years in LGL have some difficulty in their ability to hear ranging from “able to hear with a hearing aid” to “unable to hear”, and two percent have some difficulty in their ability to see ranging from “unable to see close/distances even with lenses” to “unable to see at all”.

Many senior residents live in condos along the trail within Mississippi Mills. There is also a high school, an old age home and a youth centre near this trail. The trail provides access for these people to shopping, restaurants, public buildings, accessible comfort stations, farmer’s market, library, accessible housing and programming on Country Street (right next to the rail trail) without having to have a car.

From a personal perspective, my daughter Laura who has physical and intellectual disabilities, benefits from the permission the Town of Perth has given her to ride her adult tricycle on the Town’s sidewalks. The Town’s intervention on her behalf greatly contributes to her health and quality of life.

I strongly support the proposed Mississippi Mills Council Plan to make the trail more accessible in Almonte Ward. Municipalities have a unique, valuable contribution to promote healthy people in healthy communities. Creating a more accessible trail will provide an opportunity for more people to be physically active, enjoy the health benefits of being in nature, share time with friends and family, and be connected to community resources.

Sincerely,

Paula J. Stewart, MD, FRCPC
Medical Officer of Health and Chief Executive Officer