Millennium Trail Launch Points become contested grounds around the horse shoe

The Millennium Trail at Stanley Street looking west. A green space adjacent to the trail on its north side was one of two proposed launch points that were referred back to municipal staff. (Jason Parks/Gazette File Photo)

SARAH WILLIAMS

STAFF WRITER

Council engaged in a lengthy debate about the future of the proposed Millennium Trail launch points during Thursday’s Committee of the Whole Meeting. After receiving a report from the Development Services Department, and listening to a deputation from Hilary Fennell and Sarah Legere regarding the Stanley Street launch point in Bloomfield, council approved only two of the four proposed launch points, with a directive to staff to further review the Lake Street and Stanley Street spaces.

Council also approved an amendment to keep landscaping at the approved launch points to a minimum in order to mitigate operating costs.

Fennell spoke to council, noting both she and Legere are lifelong residents of the County. The Legere family has lived on Stanley Street for 35 years and Fennell’s family has done so for the better part of the last decade.

Fennell opposed the Stanley Street launch point for several reasons. To begin with, she cited the street as being the fourth busiest in the entire municipality. Given that, she portrayed encouraging an increase of vehicles to the area as being counter-intuitive and possibly dangerous.

“We are fully opposed to the launch area site that’s being proposed. We think the facts speak for themselves,” she began. “As you’re aware, Stanley Street is the fourth highest traffic road in the County.”

Fennell continued by adding that a count had been shared with her from a random day in July 2017, indicating that over 4,900 vehicles had travelled along that road in just 24 hours.

“Part of that is we are a main artery from the 401 to Sandbanks, so on the average long weekend we see traffic come through Thursday afternoon and it’s steady and speedy. It’s consistent until Sunday when folks head home,” she said.

Fennell stated there has been multiple times when vehicles are backed up as far as her property just to get onto Highway 33. Furthermore, she noted that many travel above the posted speed limit of 50 km/hour.

“Additionally, my son is nine years old,” commented Fennell. “Like any highly trafficked road we have to put our own vehicles at the end of the driveway to make sure he doesn’t drive his bike onto the road which is our own version of the 401.”

Apart from the impediment and hazard of an increase in traffic, Fennell pointed to the the current area that abuts the Millennium Trail on Stanley Street. She noted it is currently an enjoyable green space, but expressed worry that, moving ahead with the launch point and encouraging swarms of people to use that space, would result in a proliferation of garbage and other detritus.

“The green space does get used, albeit maybe only by residents who realize it is a public space,” said Fennell. “Because I am right next door I see how it’s utilized. People do park their vehicles there now and are respectful of the space. There’s no garbage left behind and it’s as if they were never there.”

Instead of developing the proposed green space, Fennell suggested council consider using the Mill Pond Park on Brick Street in Bloomfield, a mere 200 metres away from the proposed launch point.

Fennell noted that the park already contains many of the amenities that would have to be provided at the Stanley Street launch point.

“The park already has a paved lot, washroom facilities and garbage bins being maintained by County staff,” Fennell pointed out. “Taxpayers already contributed to the upgrade of that park a few years ago and, of course, we continue to contribute to upkeep.”

“Due to the changing nature of this community, there are far fewer younger families here because we are such a highly touristed area,” she added. “Bloomfield, as you’re aware, has multiple short term accommodations. So, the park is not being utilized the way it used to be when there were more neighbourhood kids. It is empty or close to empty much of the time.”

Councillor Ernie Margetson inquired as to whether there could be some compromise with regards to use of the area.

“Do you feel if it was scaled back in some way it may be you could agree with some use of that area? I know they’re proposing a hedge between your property and the municipal property,” said Margetson. “It just seems there may be some opportunity to use that area if trail users wanted to stop and rest. I mean, trail users.”

“Any way you look at it, it’s impinging upon our quality of life,” Fennell replied, citing not only the possibility for pollution but the increase in traffic.

North Marysburgh Councillor Stewart Bailey. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)

Councillor Phil Prinzen questioned the need to develop launch points if they’re already being utilized.

“I hear your points. The thing I feel is, if residents here know it’s there and are using it, it’s almost like Wellington Beach,” said Prinzen. “All of a sudden, we advertise it and there’s an influx. So, if it’s there and nobody’s having issues with it, I don’t know why we need to have a sign to say it is there, because once you open that up, it’s hard to close that again.”

Along with Fennell and Legere’s deputation, both Barry Davidson and Patrick Maloney spoke to council, outlining the plans for the launch points. Davidson has been the lead on the Millennium Trail Rehabilitation Ad-Hoc Committee while Maloney serves as Chair of the PEC Trails Committee.

Most of the work on the trials has and will be done by volunteers.

Maloney pointed out that the proposed launch points were targeted by staff before the project began.

“A couple of things on the rest areas-those were not chosen by public. They were decided by county staff prior to project,” he stated. “The work we did was move ahead with those targeted sites.”

Maloney also added that, like Fennell, he lives on Stanley Street and owns a business there too. While he agreed with Fennell’s statement about heavy traffic, he worried that introducing more foot traffic from Brick Street could prove detrimental or treacherous.

In citing the Lake Street launch point, Mayor Steve Ferguson noted concerns about safety, with the area also being host to both the Agrarian Market, the LCBO and their adjoining parking lots.

“If I’m looking at this correctly, the parking spots are abutting the neighbouring property, which is the LCBO parking lot and Agrarian Market parking lot,” said Ferguson. “This space is also used extensively by people swinging in with trailers and all kinds of other vehicles as they go into the liquor store. I just wonder about the wisdom of the size of this space and what could effectively eliminate the parking of those large vehicles, which in turn causes a safety problem. Is there a discussion with the OPP about this?

“As far as the Lake Street area, this did come up separately from our committee, as far as the access that’s tied into the reconstruction of Talbot Street and Lake Street,” explained Project Manager Garrett Osborne. “As that’s being reconstructed, there will be a new barrier curb installed on Lake Street.”

Councillor Stewart Bailey, like others, expressed concern about plans for the Lake Street launch point, citing some similar concerns to that of Fennell and Legere. Bailey has some knowledge of the area having worked in the Picton LCBO.

“The diagram does show a toilet. The first thing I would do would be to makes sure that doesn’t get put in for the simple reason that staff will be emptying it daily. The number of vehicles that go into that place on a weekend is horrendous, and as Fennell suggested about people doing certain things behind her garage if they’ve got no option-they were already doing that behind the liquor store,” stated Bailey. “Similarly, I had to get in two dumpsters during the summer for the simple reason that the majority of tourists leaving on a Sunday were filling my dumpsters with garbage. Those dumpsters weren’t even for garbage, they were for paper.”

Ultimately, council only approved two launch points, those at Salem Road and on Station Street. The remaining two will be sent back to staff for consideration.