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Wellesley neighbourhood makes a case to alter trail plans

Wellesley residents proved they’re anything but apathetic at Monday night’s public information meeting regarding a proposal to construct trails around the village.

Residents were careful to say they’re not “anti-trails,” but rather there are some issues of liability, safety, and poor planning that need to be addressed before the township should go ahead with implementing a trails system.

A select few did voice their support of the initiative, stating they’d be happy to have trails in or on their properties for their kids to use.

The Wellesley Township Trails and Active Transportation Advisory Committee gave a quick presentation on their aspirations for the trails, followed by one from township chief administrative officer Rik Louwagie. Wellesley councillors were on hand to listen to residents’ comments and concerns, while township staff answered questions, like who will fund it, and how close the trails will run to their homes.

“The trails committee has identified two potential areas to construct trails this year. These areas are along Greenwood Hill Road from Gerber Meadows Drive to Ferris Drive, and along Gerber Road from David Street to Lawrence Street. These two sections of trails have been identified as they would extend trails that have either already been constructed or will soon be constructed by developers,” Louwagie said.

A common concern from residents was with putting the trail on Greenwood Hill, which sees high traffic volumes of cars, trucks, and farm vehicles.

The township will be doing most of the work for the trail construction in-house using their own forces and own equipment. Required fill will be coordinated with other township projects to mitigate the cost. The trails will be funded through development charges, grants and or reserves.

But the cost of the project is far from the most pressing issue for residents who don’t support the current plan.

Part of the trail is proposed to go through the front lawns including driveways of properties on Greenwood Hill Road.

Kevin Jantzi, who lives at 1250 Greenwood Hill Rd., said there’s no room to put a seven-foot wide pathway on those properties. If you look at the house next to his, 1256 Greenwood Hill Rd., you’ll see the trail would bump right up against that house’s steps.

“No one’s questioning the mandate for an active community. But I would like to know how when you went through the process of proposing this on our front properties and at the present time our properties are the only ones who this really goes through the front of. … I ask you how can you expect us to embrace something like that, a seven-foot-wide dirt pathway going through our front lawns?” Jantzi said.

Kevin Beggs, general manager of community services, said the plan is for the trail to be gravel for the first year and then a hard-top trail the following year.

“We live there 365 days of the year. So somebody’s going to bike by in 10 seconds, enjoy the trip to go to the other side of town. They’re going to say what a great experience that was, but in the spring and the fall when it’s wet and dirty and muddy we have to live with that,” Jantzi said.

Dorothy McCabe noted she’d already emailed the councillors to say she supports any addition of trails to the township and particularly in the village of Wellesley, but the main issue that concerns her is safety.

“My family and I are active joggers, walkers, cyclists but there’s no way I would let my two young children get down that road because it’s just not safe,” she said of Greenwood Hill.

She advised the township to consider the long-term of the community when making their decision.

Larry Park said many of the people concerned with the trails are new to Wellesley and enjoy living there.

“I think we all feel strongly that something has to be done. Walking on Greenwood Hill Road is perilous. I live right along there and I see the traffic whizzing … I think we’re seeking some kind of responsible approach to this that can be agreeable to all.”

He said there needs to be a more inclusive approach to involve everyone affected. That sentiment was shared by Heather Yost, who noted the group who’s concerned with the trails asked twice to be on the agenda to make their presentation and were denied. She’s worried about if they continue the trail down Greenwood Hill Road on the west side of the road, kids will have to stop at Gerber Meadows Drive, Parkview and Queen’s Bush to cross the road.

“I don’t know anybody personally on the trails committee, but I’d like you to think long and hard about it because I’m assuming that none of these trails are on your front yard or  your backyard. I bought a property and I have worked hard in the last 15 years to have large mature trees, add to the nature there so that it’s nice for the people to walk along the road. And now you’re asking to put a dirt path with a bunch of people on it that I didn’t want and I know for a fact that it won’t be in any of your yards,” Yost said.

No one on the committee piped up to disagree with her, with director of planning Geoff van der Baaren later confirming that’s the case.

Brian Yost noted he’s had trouble getting answers from the township. He even sent a registered letter hoping to get some feedback, but that didn’t happen.

“We don’t want this trail in our backyard. The purpose of this meeting is not about ‘do we want a trail?’ – that was a while go. This meeting here is ‘do you stick it in on people so close to their houses [with] inadequate setbacks?’ This is where I get really upset – I can’t figure out who would ask anybody to put a trail there. It just makes no sense to me,” Yost said.

He says he doesn’t want to look out his kitchen window and see a trail 15 feet away.

“You don’t do this to people. You don’t put it in their front yards, a dirt path in their front yards. If it’s going to go in, it’s going to go in and we’ve had people say we’re not staying here, we’re moving, we don’t this trail…We don’t want it,” Yost said.

He notes he spoke with one man in town who was in support of the trails. Yost measured from the centre of the road to where the trail would  go on his property and he agreed it was too close.

“I’m not totally against trails. I know it sounds like it. I’ve had bikers and hikers call me from town that I don’t know and they say, ‘I know what you’re up against.’ This one fella, he said, ‘I’ve hiked and biked all over the place. Hiking and biking trails are meant to go from outside of town away.’ He said you don’t put it into places like right beside people’s houses,” Yost said.

Stephanie Hergott didn’t intend to speak at the meeting, but changed her mind after hearing so much negativity.

“I like these trails, I think it’s great. I don’t think we have enough systems connecting the different parts of Wellesley right now. I have two little kids. They’re going to be going to school before long. I have family in Wellesley and currently they have to walk on many roads without sidewalks or trails to get anywhere they need to go,” Hergott said.

She added, “I think if people don’t want the trail near their house then definitely feel free to put a trail near my house. I’ll take it. I think it’s great when kids can actually be active.”

Donna Doherty moved to Wellesley from Kitchener and said she loves trails but the location here is wrong.

“It’s wonderful to go for a lovely walk through a bush. You see the flowers, you see the animals, you see the birds. You drive down Greenwood Hill, there’s no birds, there’s going to be no bush. To be honest with you I don’t see the purpose of putting it there,” Doherty said.

Louwagie said after the meeting the committee will be considering all the comments that have been heard. They will come forth with recommendations of where they think the trail should be. And they will be asking staff for input at that time on location, engineering and pricing.

Once that’s complete it will go back to the committee and they’ll make their final recommendation to council followed by a public council meeting where the documents will be public. Submitted written comments will be part of the consideration too.

Louwagie noted he’s spoken with the township’s insurance provider and they stated they have no liability issues with the proposed locations of the trails, which some residents noted was a concern.

If everything goes smooth and proceeds it could be late summer or early fall for the trails to be installed, he said.

“If you build it, they’ll come,” Rick Cain said. “If you try to push it onto people that have moved into their retirement or end home and all of a sudden you’re changing the face of that, that they paid extra money for, you’re going to get pushback. It’s nothing personal. We all like the trail system, we just want the mayor, council, the committee to all incorporate everybody’s ideas and at least come up with the best idea that makes most of the community happy.”

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