When do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few? The age-old question presented itself quite brazenly to the Town Council of Greater Napanee at their regular meeting this week, held the evening of Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023.
Council approved the Recreation Master Plan 2023-2033 compiled by Sierra Planning and Management. As previously reported, the plan includes recommendations for an indoor swimming pool, better-maintained boat launches, and more trails that encourage active transportation, and is intended to act as a guide for recreation planning in the municipality for the next 10 years.
In a fortuitously timed deputation, Dr. Tom Touzel and educator Mike Sewell recommended that the Town take advantage of present opportunities to improve active transportation within the town with the implementation of a new multi-use trail that would dovetail nicely with the new Recreation Master Plan. Active transportation is considered that which is human-powered, such as walking, cycling, skating, wheelchair use, and any other form of travel other than vehicular.
The two pointed out that the Recreation Master Plan currently identifies five trails within the town of Napanee, but they are not connected — and that the decommissioned CN railbed that runs through town would provide an easily upgraded footpath for the proposed multi-use trail, allowing people more access east to west and north to south and potentially making better connections with existing trails.
Not only would additional multi-use trails have health benefits, Sewell pointed out, “There’s physical and there’s emotional well-being, but… If we could find a way to move people from Cherrywood [Parkway] to the [Strathcona Paper Centre] arena, to the downtown and over to Southview Elementary school, not using a car, that’d be fantastic.”
Sewell said that the Town needs to begin thinking of active transportation strategies that allow people to access work, commerce, and other town services. Not only does not everyone have a car, but active transportation is healthier and more environmentally responsible, he asserted.
The two men, who represent a group of citizens who would like to see the proposed trail come to fruition, pointed out that the group would like to begin making upgrades as soon as possible. One reason for urgency is that the rail bed currently crosses Highway 401 via a bridge that could be demolished during the forthcoming widening of the highway. The fear is that, if the town doesn’t take ownership of the bridge seriously and soon, it will be demolished, they explained.
“I don’t see a reason why people couldn’t be putting their footprints on this by mid-summer,” Touzel expressed.
Sierra Planning and Management had earlier pointed out that there is a great tourism opportunity that has been missed by not creating this trail through Napanee. The same railbed east of Strathcona is part of the 104 km Cataraqui Trail that connects rural communities across Eastern Ontario from Strathcona to Smith Falls. Along the way, it connects to trail networks that access the cities of Kingston and Ottawa, as well as much of Frontenac County. The recreational trail is used by cyclists, runners, horse riders, snowmobilers, cross-country skiers, and people just out for a stroll, enjoying spotting wildlife and the natural surrounding, and bringing tourism to the shops at the heart of these communities.
The nearest trail access to Napanee is at Strathcona Paper Plant, where the west end of the trail dead ends. Napanee is 7.5 km away via County Roads 16 and 1, and Newburg Road.
Two local farmers whose properties abut the abandoned CN Rail line also appeared before Council, only they did so to voice their worries about the possibility of connecting the Napanee part of the abandoned railbed to the rest of Cataraqui Trail. Dave Milligan and Rob Sutton both own farms that abut the abandoned railbed and are concerned that there would be trespassing on their properties and liability issues if the trail is allowed to proceed. Milligan is offering to buy the portion of the rail bed that crosses his property from the town.
Both the pros and the negative concerns were noted and received by Council, and are to be forwarded to the new Town Recreation Committee for consideration.
As always this is but a snippet of the Napanee Council goings on. You can follow along with Council happenings at the Town of Greater Napanee website, and even watch the meetings yourself from the comfort of your home via the Town’s YouTube channel.