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ESL group seeks Woolwich's help with traffic study

Development and increased traffic on the west side of the region are threatening the Laurel Creek headwaters, says the public liaison committee involved with the area deemed an environmentally sensitive landscape (ESL).

In order to gauge the extent of the problem and develop a mitigation strategy, the committee is calling for a comprehensive traffic study, and wants the support of all of the municipalities covered by the Laurel Creek ESL, including Woolwich.

To that end, the committee’s acting chair, Dianne Ensing, addressed township councillors meeting Tuesday night.

“We feel there is a pressing need to study traffic patterns and road usage within and around the ESL, with the goal of addressing safety and long-term environmental protection,” she said.

The Laurel Creek Headwaters ESL covers some 5,300 acres, straddling the borders of Woolwich, Wellesley, Wilmot and Waterloo. Created six years ago by the Region of Waterloo the ESL links several important natural habitats and landforms on the Waterloo Moraine, home to provincially significant wetlands and a wide variety of wildlife, birds, amphibians, rare plants and species at risk.

Even in the short time since the ESL was established, said Ensing, there have been growing pressures on the environment there. Expansion on the west side of Waterloo, the Boardwalk development on Ira Needles Boulevard for instance, has brought more homes and more cars. Even modest growth in Wellesley Village has meant more commuters on roads passing through the sensitive lands. In Woolwich, traffic on Kressler Road, particularly gravel trucks and farm vehicles, poses a risk.

Along with residential and commercial development, the area is also popular with recreational users, from runners and cyclists to cross-country skiers in the winter months. The increased use poses environmental risks, but also puts recreational users in conflict with traffic on sometimes narrow roads, she said.

“The risks are compounded by the fact that some of these roads – Wilmot Line, Bertlett’s Road and Kressler Road – have poor sightlines, hidden driveways, narrow shoulders and surface erosion into waterways.”

Receptive to the idea of a traffic study, Coun. Mark Bauman suggested the project should be co-ordinated by the region, rather than relying on the four lower-tier municipalities to collaborate on a cost-sharing deal.

“Sometimes we don’t work really well together,” he laughed, adding “this should be a region-driven initiative” because the ESL itself was created by the regional government.

Director of engineering and planning Dan Kennaley asked that councillors refer the matter to his staff for more study, with a report to come back to the table at a later date.

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