Resident emails to County send clear message on preferred trail use

County emails reveal support for non-motorized trail from local residents in Mississippi Mills and Carleton Place

Chris George on behalf of Friends of the Ottawa Valley Recreational Trail

The Friends of the Ottawa Valley Recreation Trail (a group of citizens who champion the development of a non-motorized recreational trail in Lanark County) has been provided all feedback emails sent to Lanark County during its 2017 public consultation process on the OVRT. Hundreds of emails were submitted to County before the March 1, 2017 deadline.

The consensus drawn from the public consultations is clear.  Of those residents that identified their municipality, those that preferred a non-motorized public trail include 77% in Mississippi Mills, and 69% in Carleton Place.  In contrast, those that preferred a motorized corridor consisted of 21% in Mississippi Mills and 19% in Carleton Place.

When Almonte was considered independently, 88% of residents preferred a non-motorized recreation trail, compared with 10% opting for a motorized corridor through town.  There were 2% where their preference was not clearly identifiable.

There is no uncertainty with these results – 88% of Almonte residents preferred a non-motorized trail. It is clear that a compromise for Almonte is required.

Fortunately, a group from Lanark County led by Warden John Fenik and CAO Kurt Greaves met with Mississippi Mills County Councillors and Active Transportation Committee members to discuss how to meet the expectations of those wanting to use the trail that runs through Almonte. A compromise trail management solution was struck, discussed, and voted on at the Mississippi Mills Council meeting March 6.

The compromise was accepted by Mississippi Mills Council (8:2 in favour). It ensures that all local residents and tourists in Almonte will be able to use the recreational trail through the town.  Seniors can feel confident to walk on the trail.  Children will be safe biking and playing on the trail.  Local residents will use the trail through the community without fear of an accident with a motorized vehicle.  Tourists will have a nice downtown path to add to the popular Riverwalk. And the trail surface itself can be maintained to allow for people who have accessibility issues. With the compromise, many more people will use the trail in Almonte, while motorized traffic can traverse the populated urban area on a short bypass.

The compromise is not an ideal solution – but it is a compromise that could work for all involved.

Though this solution is not perfect, it is reasonable. As the County consultations reveal, most in Almonte want a non-motorized trail. The reasons are many. Motorized vehicles pose a safety risk to residents and dissuade use of the trail by all local active transportation users and those with mobility impairments. A motorized corridor diminishes our quality of life and enjoyment of property in our neighbourhoods, as well as the tourists’ experience in our downtown.  However, having snowmobile traffic in the winter months is a compromise that provides guarantees of safety and quality of life in the other three seasons of the year. From an economic perspective, a non-motorized trail provides a safe and secure environment for our tourist visitors during the busiest months for local downtown businesses.

The bypass solution puts motorized vehicles on a route around the populated areas of Almonte and provides recreational motorists with a known route that many use today.  This bypass has all the amenities for motor vehicle enthusiasts – gas stations, convenience and hardware stores, a chip truck, and two picnic areas.

“Please respect our compromise.”

Lanark County Councillors are asked to please respect the wishes of Mississippi Mills Council – elected representatives who have voted in favour of a compromise trail-bypass solution reached with Lanark County Warden John Fenik and CAO Kurt Greaves, and supported by Public Works Director Terry McCann.  In fact, all 4 councillors representing the Almonte ward voted for this compromise.

On another level, the work of Warden Fenik, CAO Greaves and the Mississippi Mills Council is promising. This Lanark County compromise is proof that solutions can be made in a civil society.  Without compromise and respect you have winners and losers.  With compromise and respect, everyone gets something.  When all sides give a bit and respect the positions of others, a compromise works and our community as a whole flourishes.