Council’s recent vote on Mississippi Mills’ recommendations for use of the OVRT was a difficult decision. It followed a much-anticipated meeting with the Lanark County Warden, John Fenik, and Kurt Greaves, Lanark County CAO. After three months of silence from the County, Mississippi Mills Reps requested the meeting on March 5th. The goal was to find solutions which would allow the County to achieve its goals for a continuous multi-use trail around the County and to allow Mississippi Mills to achieve its basic values for use of the trail. The proposal has two main points: the acceptance of snowmobile use for Winter months over the entire OVRT and the preservation of an accessible section for non-winter months within the Almonte Ward. This Almonte section would be non-motorized so as to prevent user conflict between motorized users and persons with impaired mobility and/or sensory impairments. ATV’s, dirtbikes and ‘Side-by-Sides’ are proposed to use a bypass using the Rae Rd, Cty Rd. 29 and the Blakeney Rd. This route has numerous advantages including two gas stations, a chip wagon and the Blakeney Park on the river. It’s only a minor diversion from the OVRT and uses a route where ATV use is already approved and deemed safe by the County.
In addition, Mississippi Mills’ Council re-affirmed its commitment to the importance of including all users as its priority value proposition to the County. ‘All users’ includes persons with disabilities. This is not a ‘nice-to-have’, it’s a ‘must-have’. I believe the County leadership, Messers. Fenik & Greaves, acknowledge Mississippi Mills’ Accessibility values as highly desirable and want to help us make a safe non-motorized zone free from conflict.
It has often been said that ‘politics is the art of the possible’. While some will be disappointed with Council’s decision, given the variety of interests and perspectives and the County’s position, this compromise was needed for our community to move forward on this issue with the County. The action now shifts to Lanark County Council.
Within hours of Council’s decision, and all too predictably, the PRATAC/Lanark Landowners Alliance hardliners had started their undermining of the elected Mississippi Mills Council by denouncing the compromise. I am always amazed at their consistent ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The plain fact is: non-motorized users will gain significantly from the Mississippi Mills’ Council proposal. The vast majority of Mississippi Mills residents who have been following the issue are well aware of the significant modification of Council’s original position. PRATAC and the Lanark Landowners amply display their complete lack of ability to show any empathy whatsoever to those who do not share their opinions. Luckily, your councilors are people who can listen, assess, decide and do it all over again, and again until decisions can be found which benefit the community as a whole.