Wellington County to work on northern trail links this year

County coun­cillors have some work to do on local trails and councillors approved a trail plan here on June 26 that calls for $40,000 to be spent this year.

The trestle bridge trail off South River Road between Elora and Fergus will have a barrier gate installed, at a cost of $2,500.

The Kissing Bridge trail, near West Montrose, will re­quire $12,500 worth of work. That includes barrier fencing, maintenance, and kiosk con­struc­tion and installation.

But the biggest part of the cost will come at the White’s Junction Trail, in Minto. The work includes a barrier gate fabri­cation and installation, signs, and grading and surfac­ing, at a total cost of $25,000 for the first phase.

That trail is a former CN railway line between Palmer­ston and Harriston, and is being developed with the Palmerston Trail Association, an incorpor­ated non-profit group. Through fundraising, donations, and local partnerships, the PTA has:

– already bought 6.5km of trail corridor from CN, and an additional half kilometre is owned by Minto in Palmerston;

– made and installed two bar­rier gates;

– completed two bridges with decking and railings;

– surfaced with stone dust about 3.2km of trail;

– planted 1,000 trees along it through the county’s Green Legacy program;

– planted native grass under a Ministry of Natural Re­sour­ces program; and

– installed signs, replica railway signs, a map kiosk, ben­ches, bird feeders, and a raptor post.

The group, though, has been unable to date to secure the cor­ridor north of Minto’s 7th Line to complete a connection into Harriston, and the county’s re­port noted that another route might have to be considered to finish that connection.

The report also listed the im­­provements needed on the en­tire trail. It stated the con­ver­sion of a rail corridor to a trail usually requires barrier gates, bridges, culverts, fencing, and re­surfacing.

There are two bridges and three culverts on the trail. The bridges are fully operational and inspected every two years. The culvert was there when the railway was operating.

The report noted the need for fence replacement is not known, but some might be required to restrict motorized vehicles. Barrier gates will have to be installed where the trail inter­sects with roads. There are two already installed by the PTA, and the report noted the county installed such a gate on the Kissing Bridge trail, built to Grand River Conservation Auth­ority standards, and if the county funds the White’s Junc­tion Trail, county officials would prefer to keep to that standard.

The report noted that only gates and some surfacing are the remaining improvements. The report showed three op­tions to obtain land into Har­riston from the trail.

The preferred route is the old railway corridor north of the 7th Line. The options are:

– a 2.2km trail connection following the old railway line, but the land might be in private ownership. The county sug­gested if the land is privately owned, the PTA find out who controls it and work with the landowners to negotiate for buying the land;

– A 3km trail connection fol­lowing a portion of the former railway right of way and then following what appears to be two unopened road allowances. Again, the county staff asked that the PTA verify who owns the lands, and suggested that Minto records might assist. If the land is private, it would have to be purchased. If Minto owns the road allowance, the PTA would have to get town permission to use them for a trail; and

– a third option would follow the 7th Line to the east and then County Road 5 to the north. At the intersection of Cou­nty Road 109, the route would follow the 8th Line, west on Blind Line to con­nect to the Harriston Greenway Trail.

Finally, Minto officials have indicated they would like to con­nect the Clifford commu­nity trail to the Harriston Greenway and White’s Junc­tion trails, and they have applied for a Trillium grant to hire a consultant to complete a plan to do that.

The report also noted that because of the high cost of the work, it be done in three phas­es. The first would include securing the corridor by in­stalling barrier gates to control access at road allowances. The second would include grading and surfacing the remainder of the trail. County staff noted the PTA should approach the town about that small section Minto owns to confirm council’s in­ter­est in completing the trail in that area.

The final phase would in­clude securing and completing the trail corridor from 7th Line to Harriston. The costs for that de­pend on which route is secured.

Council unanimously ap­prov­ed proposals for all three trails.