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On the trail of something controversial

Councillors in Wellesley Township lent their ears to another group of impassioned Schweitzer Crescent residents this week, this time present at the meeting to proclaim their support of the development of the Bast Bush Trail, as the debate surrounding the proposed location heated up even further.

On Sept 7, some 20 residents of Schweitzer Crescent in Wellesley Village appeared at council to express their dissatisfaction with the possible placement of a new trail, which was in the development stages by the Wellesley Trail Association (WTA). After a petition was presented and a public meeting held the following evening, the WTA announced that they would rework their plan for the route of the new trail.

Proposed location

This week’s meeting, however, saw a representation of some 50 more Wellesley residents, many of whom also live on Schweitzer Crescent. That groups has put together a petition in support of the trail.

“They [the trail’s opposition group] went to council as an alliance of homeowners on our street but they didn’t actually invite most of the residents on our street,” said Schweitzer Crescent resident Jeff Ohlhausen. “They are forming a ‘homeowners’ alliance’ and speaking on our behalf without asking the homeowners first.”

Tuesday night’s meeting saw a presentation from Molesworth Street resident Jillian Koehle, who reiterated and elaborated on some of the points brought up at the previous meeting.

“The neighbourhood consists of a lot of young families with young children, and the presence of a trail brings up a lot of concerns for us,” she explained. “There are concerns regarding increased traffic and parking, dogs off leashes, drug paraphernalia, cigarette butts, alcohol and even further – possible rapes to female trail users and possible child abduction.”

Neighbour Paul Zepf echoed Koehle’s assessment, describing in detail his thoughts on the additional potential dangers that might arise.

“The question is not ‘are trails good for Wellesley?” he noted, “It is ‘Is this trail, at this time, at this location good for the community or the common good?’”

Ohlhausen expressed that his understanding of the trails, and what he believed to be the understanding of the majority of the township, was just the opposite; that the addition of a walking trail to the area would bring tourism and assist with the building of a strong, healthy community.

“I find it hard to listen to scare tactics about trails as though there is some kind of trail epidemic breaking out across North America where crime is going to run rampant,” he said. “This is a classic example of a limited few trying to impose their will on the many. This trail plan existed before they [the opposing parties] bought their homes. If you made the mistake of not understanding that, I am sorry for you but you need to do your homework.”

Ultimately, councillors decided to withhold comment until a report can be prepared by township staff.

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