Trail users of Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox, and Addington: Rejoice! The ongoing work to expand the K&P Trail throughout Frontenac County has reached an important milestone.
On Tuesday, Jun. 28, 2022, people from the local municipalities, various organizations, and outdoor enthusiast groups from across Frontenac County came together for the momentous occasion, holding an official ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the opening of the new Verona Trailhead.
While construction on the Verona Trailhead began in November of 2021, the project as a whole has stretched across more than a decade. In fact, one could argue that the K&P Trail actually dates back to just after Confederation. The K&P Trail is built on and follows the former Kingston and Pembroke (K&P) Railway line, also referred to as the ‘Kick and Push railroad.’ The K&P Railway was incorporated in 1871; the intention was that it would run from Kingston to Pembroke, although construction of the rail line actually ended in Renfrew (by 1884, when the line reached Renfrew, the Canada Central Railway had already been constructed, making the need for rail commute to Pembroke obsolete). While the railway began to be abandoned in the 1950s, it was not officially closed until 1986. By that time, the only operational section of the railway was from Kingston to Tichborne.
As many in the area know, the K&P Trail stretches from Kingston throughout Frontenac County, and parts of the trail are shared with both the Rideau Trail and the Cataraqui Trail. However, as the trail continued to expand as a project under the management of Frontenac County, issues arose in continuing construction, and it was decided that the best plan was to allow the trail to meander away from the former railway line in order to work around obstructions in the path.
Meanwhile, the popularity of the K&P Trail continued to grow. And while growth can lead to growing pains – the issue of shared trail use has come up repeatedly throughout the past decade – it can also lead to opportunities. One such opportunity was to create a trailhead in Verona, allowing for the expansion of and upgrades to available parking to access the K&P trail, as well as a variety of amenities. Specifically, according to Frontenac County documents, the Verona Trailhead improvement project included:
- Levelling, grading, and paving the parking area
- Installing benches and picnic tables
- Improving electrical service to allow for new lighting
- Adding barrier-free access to the Trail from the parking area
At the time, Frontenac County indicated that additional improvement work at a number of locations along the trail would take place in tandem with the Verona Trailhead improvement project. These included: installing railings, fencing and signage as needed where there are steep drop-offs or water hazards near the trail’s edge
“This work is just the first phase of a program funded through the Community, Culture, and Recreation stream of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP). The four-year, $828,000 funding partnership among Infrastructure Canada, the Province of Ontario, and The County of Frontenac was announced in June,” Frontenac County relayed regarding the Verona Trailhead improvement project.
For Richard Allen, Manager of Economic Development for Frontenac County, the ribbon cutting at the newly improved Verona Trailhead marked a significant moment in his work on the K&P Trail since he joined Frontenac County in 2016.
“I’ve been working on the trail for five years. And when I applied for the job, they said, ‘What are you going to do with it?’ Well, I’m an economic developer, so I’m going to market it,” Allen said, before laughing about his inexperience with trail construction all while being just days into his new position.
“And so, with the great team and the County around me and support of the Townships, as well as bringing on a project manager who knew what they were talking about,” he quipped, “we’ve been able to really accelerate infrastructure development.”
And just in time, as the COVID-19 pandemic saw a major uptick in trail use, Allen relayed. Having placed trail counters across the trail, the County was able to see just how many walkers, hikers, cyclists, and motorized users have taken advantage of the K&P trail over the course of a season. Last year alone, there were approximately 200,000 to 250,000 counts on the trail. And while some of those are multiple counts – the same user passing by multiple counters – those numbers still point to an exceptional use of the infrastructure that Frontenac County has invested in and built for over 10 years.
And those users connect to the communities along the trail, which is another important aspect from an economic development standpoint, Allen said. He drew attention to the new Frontenac App, which will allow K&P Trail users to more easily connect with those communities going forward.
For his part, Ron Vandewal, longtime Mayor of South Frontenac Township, spoke about the partnerships and relationships that have been and can be formed through the K&P Trail, while also pointing to a need for tolerance and patience among trail users.
“This is a partnership: not only with South Frontenac, but with all the municipalities within the county. I know we gave the county a really good deal on this property to make this happen,” Vandewal said, his signature wisecracking drawing laughs from the crowd gathered.
“But anyway, it obviously is a million times better than what it was,” he continued.
“I also want to remind all of the community users that we actually need to live and work together to keep this here… and that takes a lot of patience. I know it takes tolerance on the trail… However, if we don’t have that, then it breaks down and somebody’s gonna be excluded from using it, which isn’t fair.”
After referencing some of the tensions around shared use of the trail – particularly between motorized and non-motorized users – Vandewal thanked all levels of government for helping in the process of the trail’s creation thus far, and concluded, “This is a wonderful asset; it looks gorgeous.”
Warden Denis Doyle then referred to the amount of time devoted to the Trail by many politicians, township and County staff members, and volunteer community members. “I think it was in 2008 that we started working on developing the K&P Trail,” Doyle said, welcoming many of those who have played a role in helping the Trail become what it is. “It’s a real pleasure to see that it’s come this far.”
Doyle hinted at further expansion of the trail to connect it to Wolfe Island — his home ward of the County, where he also serves as Mayor of Frontenac Islands — to ensure the K&P Trail connects all the townships of Frontenac County. This expansion, which would involve users travelling on water for a section of the trail, is one example of the further opportunities the K&P Trail – and an over 150-year-old railway – holds for North, Central, and South Frontenac, the Township of Frontenac Islands, and the City of Kingston.