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Sunday, May 31, 2020
Connecting Our Communities

Public disregards closure of park, road

Bloomingdale land owner suggests measure to curb trespassing at Snyder's Flats conservation area

Though the Snyder’s Flats Conservation Area in Bloomingdale is closed, people continue to trespass on the site and neighbouring properties. Now, one of the adjacent owners is looking for more restrictive measures to discourage the public from accessing the site.

Snyder’s Flats Road is currently closed at Bloomingdale Mennonite Church, with a sign indicating that change posted at Sawmill Road. The barriers were put in place when the park was closed as part of the Grand River Conservation Authority’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic – the province had ordered the closure of all such public places.

Rockway Holdings Limited owns land at 1236 and 1277 Snyder’s Flats Rd., operating a gravel pit on the northern side. The company has noticed that people continue to flock to the site, trespassing on its property in doing do.

Chris Pidgeon, a planner with the GSP Group representing Rockway, asked Woolwich councillors meeting by video on Tuesday night to step up measures to discourage trespassing.

Rockway wants to see more durable measures, such as concrete barriers, put in place to block access to the site. Drivers are driving around the wooden barriers now in place, and no-trespassing signs posted by the company have been removed by the public, Pidgeon said.

Rockway hired private security to patrol its land on the first weekend of May, though people continued to show “blatant disregard” for closure of the area and trespassing signs. On May 2 alone, 154 vehicles were turned away by security, he added.

In aerial photos provided to council, the company indicated cars use three sites on Rockway land as parking lots.

While sympathetic to the issue, township officials opted to stay with the status quo, with perhaps some stepped-up enforcement.

Clerk Val Hummel said the township is aware of the problems with trespassing on Rockway’s land, the church lot, the GRCA site and township property, including the parking lot at the community centre.

“People feel it is their right … to use the land,” she said in recommending against more barriers.

“People will find a way out there – the water draws them.”

Along with stronger temporary barriers, Rockway is also proposing a permanent closure of the road west of the church, with Pidgeon indicating the company is interested in a land swap with the GRCA that would include a new driveway into the conservation area. Under that plan, Rockway would buy the closed portion of Snyder’s Flats Road from the township, effectively joining its properties on either side of the roadway.

Councillors remained open to hearing more, without embracing the concept.

The proposal prompted Coun. Patrick Merlihan to inquire about Rockway’s plans for the land as he questioned the sudden response to trespassing concerns.

“Is this a recent problem?”

Pidgeon noted Rockway is concerned about potential liability issues, adding the trespassing hasn’t yet been a hindrance to the gravel operation.

On the development side, Pidgeon said Rockway has no plans today, nor in the foreseeable future, pointing out that the township’s settlement boundaries and the region’s countryside line restrictions both make development unlikely.

“I can’t say forever, but it’s a very, very long time.”

Coun. Larry Shantz asked if the company was still planning to restore the site back to farmland, with Pidgeon responding that the gravel pit is still in operation.

“The license is still active to a certain extent.

“I don’t know how many years of extraction are left,” said Pidgeon, noting the prospect of good farmland is slim. “I don’t think it’s very good agricultural land.”

Pidgeon said Rockway was planning to return at a later date with a more detailed proposal outlining the land swap and road closure.

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