Disgruntled trail protectors have ally in trying to keep public access

The Wellington Advertiser has been receiving numerous letters to the editor from people concerned about preserving public access to the trail on the south side of the river here.

Those groups should know that they are not alone when it comes to trying to keep that public access.

Director of planning Brett Salmon said in an interview last week that the proposal for a commercial and residential development on what is known as the Little Folks lands has been on the township website for nearly a year now.

The plan states, “Former industrial lands located south of the Grand River and west of Metcalfe Street in Elora are proposed for residential con­dominium and commercial use. To the west of the proposed development lands there is a treed area and limestone gorge which has been identified as Regionally Significant Life Science ANSI, ESA and Core Greenland. Residential condo and commercial land use is proposed.”

The study of the environ­mentally sensitive area by the developer, states, “Given the variety of significant plants that are present within the ESA and the existing level of impact from foot traffic it is recom­mended that there not be public access into the ESA west of Units I and J to Wellington County Road 7.

“Cessation of trampling, littering and campfire con­struction will allow the ground flora to recover. Recovery of the ground flora and absence of human and pet intrusion is expected to benefit wildlife populations in the ESA.”

But Salmon said the township does not agree with the proposal by the owner, LFL Properties, Inc.

“We told them we expect public use to remain,” Salmon said. “We don’t support what’s in their plans.”

He said that township staff disagreeing with the plans explains why there has been no public meeting called to consider the proposal. He said it is likely the main issue would be public access at such a meeting, with the proposal being virtually ignored.

Salmon also noted, “There’s lots of evidence there was a portage on those lands. I’m not sure when and where. Obviously, it goes around the dam.”

That makes closing off the lands to public use a problem for the developer, because portages are designated as open to the public in the Public Lands Act.

Salmon said the company’s proposal is typical of normal negotiations with developers, but he added, “We think we have enough language in our official plan that encourages trails along the river. We’ve told them we won’t support it at the staff level.”

He added that the township does have a certain amount of control that it normally might not have.

“It is private,” he said of the access to the trail lands. But, “We’re fortunate that we have an agreement for access.”

He added, “We think they are going to make changes to  the plan.”

Salmon said Centre Well­ing­ton obtained the Walser factory building in 2001, and created a development concept for the entire area. The LFL proposal covers about seven acres. He said that plan would see shops and residences along Ross Street, often with artisans living above their shops.

The development consists of 14 buildings and two underground parking garages.

One hundred and seventy-four residential units and approximately 2,725 square metres of commercial space would be provided.

The current plan calls for a “river walk” at the eastern end of the northern margin of some of the development. The walk would connect Victoria Street to the central square, with pedestrian access from there to Ross Street.

To provide for views of the Grand River from the buildings to be constructed removal of the existing trees along the south bank of the river “in front of” four buildings would be required.

The plan also stated a public “River Walk” would run from Building A westerly to the central square. West of the central square along the southern bank of the river there “will not be any public access. Private access will be provided by way of a maintenance access route adjacent to the power generation facility.”

The environmental report also noted that there is public access throughout the ESA component that is present on the LFL Inc. lands. Foot and cycle traffic is particularly heavy on existing trails through the cedar coniferous forest unit. People walk dogs and cycle, kayakers and fishermen access the river and people picnic and build camp fires within this vegetation unit.