With climbing costs, new stairs to the gorge will have to wait

ELORA – Township staff will put on “pause” a plan to rebuild the stairs that lead from Victoria Park to the Elora Gorge in the hope a community partner will come forward or a grant can be obtained to help cover some of the cost overrun.

Managing director of community services Pat Newson told council at the Sept. 11 committee of the whole meeting that the tender for new stairs came in at $625,000 – almost $250,000 over budget.

Newson said the existing stairs are built right into the rock. The plan was to build new stairs right over the old ones and improve the landing at the bottom.

Fire and rescue services also requested that anchor points be installed at the same time to help with gorge rescues.

Newson said the gorge and the stairs are a big draw for local residents and tourists alike, and while it is a priority project, it can’t proceed without the necessary funds.

She recommended the project be paused until funding can be sorted out; a process that could take months or years.

Existing funds would remain in a reserve for that purpose.

“The option of re-tendering would likely not result in a significant cost reduction given the current market price of materials required for this project,” Newson wrote in her report.

“I’m concerned with this endless date,” said councillor Barb Lustgarten-Evoy. 

“I worry if we leave it be, it will only become more expensive.”

And if left long enough, the stairs will become unusable, she added.

“Council can set some dates,” Newson said, noting she hopes there will be some movement from other funding sources within the year.

After some discussion, council agreed to pause the project and for staff to report back on the status of the stair project prior to the 2025 budget process, or sooner if other funding is found.