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Mill Race Trail remains partially closed over impasse with private landowner

The bulk of the Mill Race Trail in St. Jacobs remains closed as Woolwich is at an impasse with a private landowner.

Only about a 750-metre stretch of the trail –  the section between 1505 Three Bridges Rd. and the overhead railway bridge – is open to the public. The entire length had been closed since March, nominally over concerns about physical distancing after people continued to flock to the popular route despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 1.5-kilometre trail, which follows the division and reunion of the Conestogo River entering St. Jacobs from the west, has been in place for several generations.

A portion was reopened earlier this month, with the public encouraged to follow coronavirus protocols, says township trails coordinator Ann Roberts.

“The trail remains closed from the overhead railway bridge to the trail entrance at 32 Front St in St Jacobs,” she said.

The link to the village is on private property. Owner Mike Good has rescinded a previous agreement to allow public access.

While the public sections of the trail are owned by the Grand River Conservation Authority, Woolwich Township manages the trail through a maintenance agreement. There have been sporadic talks between Woolwich staff and the landowner, said Thomas van der Hoff, manager of operations and projects.

Negotiations with Good have broken off at times due to financial concerns about a drain on adjacent land he owns and the replacement of bridges along the existing trail.

“The drain issue may have led us to a lack of discussion on the trail,” said van der Hoff. “We’re hopeful that those discussions will go ahead.”

When and if the full trail will be accessible remains unknown.

“We’re hopeful that we’ll be able to get it open,” he said.

The Observer did not receive a response to requests to comment from Mike Good.

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