Friday, June 14, 2024

Should the Georgian Trail Board be Dissolved?

Stephen Vance, Editor

At the Monday, November 23 council meeting, a notice of motion was made by Councillor Jaden Calvert that in part makes perfect sense, but a paragraph at the end of the notice of motion makes far less sense.

Whereas, the Town of Collingwood passed By-law No. 2015-077 permitting the use of Pedelecson multi-use trails, including the Georgian Trail, on August 24, 2015,” notes Calvert, who at council’s next meeting will ask that “Council of the Municipality of Meaford direct staff to review the operation and governance of the Georgian Trail with a report back in Q1 2016 on the current Agreement and options moving forward; and furthermore that such a review allow for the permitted use of Pedelecs on the Georgian Trail within the Municipality of Meaford, as well as the analysis on the potential for a pilot project to allow snowmobile use on the Family Day weekend.”

So far I agree with Calvert. Pedelecs are bicycles that have an electric motor that can propel the bicycle should the rider need a break, or assistance on a hill. Though Pedelecs can reach speeds in excess of 25 kilometres per hour, Calvert correctly noted that any bicycle can reach similar speeds, even with a rider of average skill and ability. Bicycles are allowed on the Georgian Trail, and given the emphasis placed on accessibility these days, a bicycle with an electric motor seems to make some sense.

Even the suggestion that Meaford consider a pilot project to allow snowmobile use on Family Day weekend makes sense to me. Motorized vehicles like ATVs or snowmobiles are not allowed on the Georgian Trail, but for a one weekend per year having a special allowance for snowmobiles seems fair to me.

We all know and love the Georgian Trail, which begins in the east at Collingwood’s Harbourview Park and ends at our own harbour in the west. Along the route of the trail the bay-side views are as stunning as the former railroad is peaceful. For more than two decades the trail has been managed jointly by the municipalities through which the trail runs.

Where Councillor Calvert has lost me, is with the closing paragraph of his notice of motion.

Further still that the review include discussion on the process for dissolving the Georgian Trail Management Board to allow the Municipality of Meaford to maintain its own the section of the Georgian Trail located within our municipal boundaries, while ensuring that key principles are understood and agreed to by the three existing municipalities to ensure one continuous and accessible Georgian Trail.”

With all due respect to Councillor Calvert, if we want to “ensure that key principles are understood and agreed to by the three existing municipalities to ensure one continuous and accessible Georgian Trail”, perhaps the best bet is the board of management that already exists, and has existed for two decades.

While putting forward his notice of motion, Calvert suggested that Meaford could manage and maintain its share of the trail on its own, and that could very well be true, but do we want to take a chance?

Calvert noted the annual cost to Meaford for its membership on the Georgian Trail board of management: roughly $11,000 per year. We had best be certain that it wouldn’t cost more than that to go it alone – and that means factoring every cost including every second of staff time spent on the trail.

Would the dissolution of that board make it more difficult to obtain grant funding from upper levels of government should major work need to be done?

Would there be as much tourist appeal if the board were dissolved, and each municipality had its own maintenance standards, and its own rules?

The desire to review the partnership after more than two decades makes some sense, but to start with the premise of reviewing the process for dissolution of the partnership seems reckless.

When this issue comes before council, it will be an interesting debate indeed. My best advice to council – proceed with caution, and keep the best interests of the trail (the entire trail) and the communities it runs through in mind. Unintended consequences may very well be unintended, but that doesn’t make them unavoidable or excusable.

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