Napanee Town Council talks trails

A multi-use trail in Napanee’s northwest corner makes use of a section of the former rail bed. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

The Town of Greater Napanee Council is taking steps toward the possible implementation of a multi-use trail that would run through the town on an abandoned CN Rail line, which could conceivably cross Highway 401 and eventually connect the town to the Cataraqui Trail.

As a followup to the special council meeting on Thursday, May 11, 2023, which saw over 200 residents voice their opinions, Council received for information a staff report recommending that any further decision regarding the potential disposition of the land, which was declared surplus in April, be put on hold.

This recommendation was made in the hope that it would give Council and community stakeholders sufficient time to review all relevant information and options. This should include a good-faith effort to seek an alternative trail route that would not cause significant adverse impacts to neighbouring property owners and would be financially and operationally viable, the report indicates.

According to the report, the general themes heard by staff during the May 11 meeting were as follows:

  • Understanding of the legitimate concerns raised by both trail advocates and neighbouring farmers.
  • A desire to collaboratively find a solution, which may involve finding an alternative route for a trail, although the details of such a proposal are yet to be determined.
  • A desire for transparent communication from the Town about any future actions or decisions regarding this land.
  • Acknowledgement that the Town of Greater Napanee only has jurisdiction over the land up to its boundaries; a connection to the Cataraqui Trail would involve other parties, both private and municipal.
  • A request for Council to rescind Resolution #170/23 and remove the lands from the surplus listing or, barring that, to commit that no further action will be taken with respect to the disposition of the land until a good-faith effort has been made to consult all stakeholders and see if an alternative route to connect Greater Napanee to the Cataraqui Trail can be found.

Earlier in the evening, Council received the recommendation of the Town’s Recreation Advisory Committee (RAC) that a “trails committee” be established as a sub-committee of the RAC. The RAC further recommended that Council direct staff to work with the trail sub-committee to determine a provider to remove the steel rails from the former CN rail bed that runs through town, and that any funds from the sale of the steel be used to finance the urban portion of the trail south of the 401 through the town. 

The RAC estimated there is at least $68,000 worth of steel within the urban portion of the former CN line, although what its removal might cost is unknown. 

After some discussion, it was decided that a trails committee should be established, but rather than being a sub-committee of the RAC, it should be an ad hoc committee that reports directly to Town Council to minimize delays in communication between the two. This, said Mayor Terry Richardson, would also allow the RAC to concentrate on its “good work” of realizing the Town’s other recreation goals. “They [already] have a lot of things on their plate,” he advised.

Councillor Mike Schenk asked for clarification on who would make up the committee. 

“There are some very good people on the recreation committee who should also be on the ad hoc committee,” answered Richardson. “It would be a benefit to that committee to put them on there… to get the results we hope [for].”

At a special meeting of Council on Thursday, May 11, 2023, over 200 Napaneeans gathered to discuss the pros and cons of a multi-use trail through the town on the abandoned rail bed. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

Noting how farmer Dave Milligan and trail advocate Tom Touzel both spoke eloquently and respectfully at the May 11 special meeting, Schenk recommended, “You gotta make sure they got Dave and two or three on that side and Tom and two or three on this side… As long as that’s there, then I’m good,” referring to having both the property owners of the land adjacent to where the trail would run and those advocating for the trail represented on the committee. It should be noted that it is not known whether Milligan and/or Touzel can or will be appointed to the committe. 

The decision of who will be on the committee will be considered and put off to the next meeting of Council.

“Everybody was at that meeting,” Schenk commented later in regard to how the two sides came together for the betterment of Napanee. “That shows that the community can come together even if they had originally had a difference of opinions. It takes a lot of guts to stand up in front of a packed house and state the comments they did… I thought it was awful big of them.”

Mayor Terry Richardson agreed, saying, “I was proud to be a member of the Town of Greater Napanee at that moment.”

The motion to accept the report was passed with few adjustments.

As always, this is just one small report on what was an extremely busy council meeting night. Kingstonist has covered other items from the same meeting for your information. As well, you can always follow along with Greater Napanee Town Council by checking meeting topics on the Town’s CivicWeb meeting portal, watching from home on the Town of Greater Napanee YouTube channel, or attending council meetings in person at the historic Napanee Town Hall, locataed at 124 John Street.

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