Sale or trail? Napanee declares potential recreation land surplus

Looking north, the former rail spur crosses Highway 401 via a bridge and crosses farmlands whose silos are visible (top right), between Napanee and Strathcona. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingtonist.

The Town of Greater Napanee has declared a hotly contested piece of land surplus, with an intention of selling it off. The move comes after a presentation just last month by a group who proposed the land be used as a recreational trail connected to the Cataraqui Trail.

A public notice posted to the town website Thursday, Mar. 30, 2023, stated, “Notice is hereby given that at its Regular Session of March 28, 2023, the Council of the Town of Greater Napanee declared the following property surplus to the Town’s needs with the intention to consider an offer to purchase it: Part Lot 25-29 Concession 1, former Township of Richmond; Parts 4, 5, 6, & 7, registered plan 29R9996, lying north of Hwy 401, being the former CN rail line.”

As part of the rise and report from a closed session of Council held prior to its regularly scheduled session, Deputy Mayor Brian Calver made a motion that the land be declared surplus, and Council voted unanimously in agreement.

The land in question is part of the former CN Rail spur line which runs through the town of Greater Napanee. Many in the town, including a dedicated group who call themselves Napanee Active Transportation Allies (NATA), have been advocating that the land be made into an active transportation trail connecting to the 104 km Cataraqui Trail, which follows this same former rail line from Smiths Falls to the trailhead at Strathcona, adjacent to the Strathcona Paper factory. 

In their Recreation Plan for the Town of Greater Napanee, Sierra Planning and Management pointed out that a great tourism opportunity is being missed by not creating this trail through Napanee. The Cataraqui Trail is used by cyclists, runners, horse riders, snowmobilers, cross-country skiers, and people just out for a stroll, and it brings tourism to the shops at the heart of rural communities across Eastern Ontario from Strathcona to Smiths Falls. Along the way, it connects to trail networks that access the cities of Kingston and Ottawa, as well as much of Frontenac County.

Town Clerk Jessica Walters explained that, per the Town of Greater Napanee’s Sale of Land Bylaw, “any offers or potential offers regarding the sale or purchase of land are to be provided to Council in closed session, but any decisions must be passed in open session.”

In the public notice, the town stated, “This land is deemed to be Class 2 land under the Town’s Sale of Land Bylaw No. 2022-0009, as the property is landlocked and may only be developed as an addition to another parcel.”

Two local farmers, Dave Milligan and Rob Sutton, whose properties abut the abandoned CN Rail line, made deputations before Council in February to voice their worries about the possibility of connecting the Napanee part of the abandoned railbed to the rest of Cataraqui Trail. At that February meeting, Milligan and Sutton expressed concern that there would be trespassing on their properties and liability issues if a trail was allowed to proceed. Milligan, at the time, openly suggested that he would be willing to buy the portion of the rail bed that crosses his property.

Council will hear any person wishing to provide comments on the proposed sale of these lands at the regular Council meeting being held Tuesday, May 9, 2023, at 7 p.m. at the Town Hall Council Chambers (upstairs), located at 124 John Street in Napanee.

Social media reactions were critical of Council’s decision. Local children’s author and illustrator Peggy Collins noted, “We are in a situation where citizens are trying to promote health, a sustainable and accessible trail system — [especially] for those without access to cars… through our very car-centric town (with no transit system) — and the town, despite seemingly supporting it, is now quickly looking to sell off a valuable resource.” NATA also tweeted their disappointment, calling the move “short-sighted “ and “disappointing” and encouraging citizens, “Please folks[,] comment before May 9th.”     

Any person wishing to provide written comment for Council’s consideration or wishing to receive more information on this matter may contact Town Clerk Jessica Walters at [email protected] or 343-302-5238. For inclusion on the agenda, comments must be received by noon on Wednesday, May 3, 2023.

This is a developing story, and this article will be updated as more information becomes available.

One thought on “Sale or trail? Napanee declares potential recreation land surplus

  • Short sighted town council … there are lots of ‘solutions’ to trails that abut farm lands. Solutions are a hundred years old. Just because this council (and Milligan and Sutton) haven’t researched and ‘discovered’ these solutions, does not mean they don’t exist.
    Why are we still stuck in 1953? It’s 2023. Peggy Collins is 100% correct.
    As constituents, we need to hold this councils feet to fire. They do work for us.
    Lack of any vision for transit and recreation in Napanee is embarrassing.

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