Healthy recreation and community building for all ages and abilities

Jill McCubbin

I look forward to the tremendous recreation and tourism potential of Lanark County’s Ottawa Valley Recreation Trail (OVRT) and the section that runs through Mississippi Mills. I pledge to help maintain and promote this trail as safe, attractive and accessible – and have been working to that end for the past two years. As of 18 September, the management plan for the OVRT has not been finalized at County, but will be shortly. Mississippi Mills will need to continue to work with County to ensure safety and maintenance standards are enforced. The trail is a real asset, although it’s a work in progress and will be for the next couple of years as we all learn, listen and build on what works, what doesn’t, and what is required.

Note: The 61 km of OVRT within Lanark County is set to open on 5 October, opening ceremonies in Carleton Place. The section through Almonte will not ALL be open, as the bridge work will not be completed by that time. Still, it will be awesome to have the trail finally officially open (and almost ready).

On recreation, healthy activity and community development

Over the last few years, many projects in our town have contributed to building our thriving community: accessible trail development, the planning & installation of crosswalks, increased tree planting, public art, a new jewel of a library in Pakenham, new & improved services in Gemmill Park (the splash pad, skatepark, play structures), more active programs for seniors and children, and the list goes on. Healthy community development and safe and active recreational options build quality of life, which in turn attracts new residents and ultimately new business.

“Our built environment influences physical activity which influences health.” – quoted from  a report (click here for the full report) by Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada. Furthermore: “Improving public health and preventing disease through changes to our environment is a well-founded concept… We need better information if we are to measure the health impacts of community design to incorporate evidence-based strategies into community planning. This report will raise awareness among Canadians about the unique aspects of their communities that they could take advantage of to improve their health.”

More on the OVRT

Mississippi Mills is a rural municipality with a more densely populated area – Almonte – that compares fairly to the density and lifestyle in Ottawa. I support recreational/motorized vehicles on the rural segments of the OVRT, but, in the long run, I don’t support the same for the Almonte segment. For the same reasons – safety and accessibility – that Ottawa, Perth and Kingston do not allow rec vehicles on trails that run through the centre of these towns, recreational vehicles should not be in the parks or ultimately on the OVRT within Almonte.

I do realize, for the time being, Lanark County has all the decision-making power in regards to the OVRT, and so our next Mississippi Mills Council must continue to work with County to make the trail as safe and wonderful as possible. I made a recent suggestion at Mississippi Mills Council that the municipality collect data about trail use by user type, and types of infractions – and praise! – in order that the County-planned two year review of the OVRT has meaningful data from our municipality. This is an important effort for the next Mississippi Mills Council and administration. What the future holds for the OVRT will be learned of and built in time, but for now, we enjoy and build on the successes of the current trail. One such enhancement: A public easy-access point to the OVRT, at the Snedden Casey Park / Anne Street end of Almonte, is in the works, thereby encouraging more use, more accessibility and integration within Almonte neighbourhoods.

And finally… 

I’m keen to work towards the creation of a new recreation opportunity in Mississippi Mills for residents and tourists alike. A beautiful river runs through our town. A canoe, kayak, and paddle board rental facility would increase our community’s health and devotion to the river. Imagine partners like the Youth Centre, the NLAS and the Fair Board, the municipality, recreation professionals, and entrepreneurs building this asset for locals and tourists, youth and seniors. Such a set-up can be done at reasonable cost, provincial funding is often available for healthy recreation, there is technology that can automate rentals and sign-ups, there is a quick return on investment for well-promoted,  community assets such as this one. What’s not to love about increasing the quality of life in our town?

I support community building with a focus on safety, activity, accessibility, vibrant main streets and the beauty of natural and heritage spaces. This focus benefits current residents and attracts tourists and new residents of all ages – bringing with them new businesses and jobs. Whoops, I already said some of that – well, it bears repeating!

Jill McCubbin is running for re-election as Almonte ward Councillor. www.jillforalmonte.com