Township agrees to support In Motion

For over an hour there was little movement except lengthy debate until Guelph-Eramosa council finally agreed, unanimously, to join the rest of Wellington County in supporting the In Motion campaign.

The request was for $3,000 from the township to match the other municipalities, with the county paying $25,000, $4,000 from Public Health, and the province adding another $10,000 to devise a plan that would see trails and bike paths interconnected across Wellington and into Guelph.

Wellington Dufferin Guelph Public Health’s Karen Armstrong and Centre Wellington Parks and Recreation Director Andy Goldie made the presentation to council. They cited health and environmental benefits, as well as economic spinoffs as possibilities once the plan is in place and acted upon. It would be created by experts and allow the county to apply for regional grants that are currently in favour at the province.

At stake was a seat at the committee table for Guelph-Eramosa.

Councillor John Scott asked what would happen if the township approves the grant.

Goldie said the consultants would put together a plan that includes best practices from other places, develop trail networks and systems, and set standards.

He said the committee overseeing the work would include one representative from each municipality, WDG Public Health, the county roads association, and the Ministry of Transportation.

Scott noted making bike paths on local roads could be a problem because municipal roads are not as wide as county roads. He also wondered about liability.

Councillor Doug Breen said, “Another two feet of pavement is not going to do it” for him. He said the township has many provincial highways and other roads that should be run by the province.

He said, though, while it might not make sense to do a trail from Rockwood to Fergus right now, it would to have one from Rockwood to Eden Mills.

“I’d like to be able to bike to my doctor’s when my kids won’t let me drive any more,” he said to laughter

Councillor Corey Woods asked, “Do we want to do this?”

He said the budget is a struggle, and finding $3,000 will be tough.

He added, though, that with no contribution, there will be no voice for the township at the committee.

Breen said he can show council maps with two trails marked on them, but no trails exist. He asked, “Why spend money for more lines on a map?” On the other hand, he said, $3,000 will not build many trails in the township, either.

Councillor David Wolk said, “We’re struggling for $3,000 If we go with this … it puts more lines on the map. What that does is increase our sense of frustration.”

He added that the current Minister of Transportation might favour this type of project, but there is an election coming and nobody knows who will hold that portfolio after it. It will take a year to complete the plan, and the election is in October.

Wolk said he is reluctant to take any money from the township’s minimal economic development budget for the work.

Mayor Chris White pointed out the benefits.

He explained such projects can obtain grants only because they are regional. He said the Marden recreation project was possible only as a regional grant. “We don’t have the money to do the trails today – or likely tomorrow. I do see a potential benefit in an area we are already working,” he said.

In the case of economic development, he said the county is already working on that issue for everyone and it will “cost us nothing.” The $3,000 is “leverage for a $60,000 report that might get us a trail and trail money … The $3,000 invested in this puts us on the field. I would hate for us … You don’t want to be that municipality in the corner.”

White added, “Sometimes you partner because you’re part of the county,” and said there could be economic spinoffs from trails in the township. He said the money could be taken from “various places” in the budget, and the township has another meeting before it considers that final document.

Council finally agreed to join the In Motion group.