Ontario Trails Coordinating Committee MeetsWe are pleased to report that on September 13th the Ontario Trails Coordinating Committee (OTCC) reconvened after a three year hiatus.
The Ontario Trails Coordinating Committee is an award winning consultation process that sees representatives from government trail stakeholders meet with the Ontario Trails Council and its partners, to discuss the challenges of the Ontario Trails Strategy.
The meetings are an opportunity for the trails community to present the lead Ministry for Trails, The Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, with issues facing the management, use, development and conservation of recreational trails in Ontario.
The OTCC is co-Chaired by OTC President Jack De Wit and Assistant Deputy Minister Steve Harlow from MTCS. Staff from the MTCS Sport and Recreation Office are also in attendance, as well as, representatives from Municipal Affairs and Housing, Ministry of Natural Resources, Ministry of Transportation, Ministry of Community and Social Services (AODA), Northern Development and Mines, Agriculture (OMAFRA), Aboriginal Affairs, Finance, amongst others.
Prior to the meeting the OTC called the partners to get a sense of the issues they'd be presenting and how we could help through this process. This meeting presented an opportunity for OTC to raise members trail priorities, which we presented straight from our on-line survey "Trail Priorities". In addition, we circulated this survey to all the participants after the meeting to back up what you have said you want to see happen on trails. Please ask trail leaders in your area to complete this important survey! 18 questions, not time consuming.
The Ministry outlined trails developments and initiatives in its presentation to the group. The Ministry reported that since 2009/10 it has invested 77 million in trails. The MTCS also highlighted the provincial cycling strategy, the Integrated Accessibility Standards, 990,000 investment in the Thousand Island Recreational trail, the June 2013 Snowmobile Trails along Provincial Rights of Way Study, the funding of COHV alternative funding model for trails study, the Great Lakes Guardian Fund, the OTC website and trails mapping.
Other developments included the revitalization of Ontario Place with trails, the Trails Open Program continuance through Ontario Heritage Foundation, An MTCS Regional Economic Development Model which incorporated snowmobile trails (and will consider other trails) and Ontario will host the Canadian Parks and Recreation Association 2014 summit.
Working from our trail priorities survey, and other documents previously tabled by the OTC with the MTCS, the OTC raised the issues of dedicated trail funding for trail projects, tort reform as a means of reducing liability and increasing trail development, distinguishing between trails and paths, and recreational trails and trail brands for the purposes of increasing recreational trail marketing, funding for AODA compliance, and the determination of next steps for the OTCC and the OTC.
During the day we heard specific presentations from the Accessibility Directorate, from MTO on the Ontario Cycling Strategy, Tourism on Regional Tourism Organizations and from the Off-Highway Working Group. All were very helpful.
When asked by OTC the AODA indicated that a checklist to ensure your trail is in compliance will be forthcoming. AMO representatives also asked about funding. The issue of community consultation and the representation from the AODA sector needs to be more holistic to ensure the broadest range of compliance is achieved for all members of the public in need; whether trails specific or infrastructure specific, improving representation to these committees would be a good thing.
When asked by the OTC about the Cycling Strategy, and its capacity to develop safer off-road cycling opportunity for on-road cycling, the MTO responded that it had heard from cycling trail groups and while the OCS is dealing mostly with on road cycling and on road cyclists, there is room for commentary regarding cycling trails, and the creation of off-road capacity. The main determinant here is a seamlessness experience for the rider.
When queried by the OTC regarding RTO's and the inclusion of recreational trail experience in the face of marketing that sees the development of Taste, Butter-Tart, Arts, Wine and Food 'Trails' the OTC was directed to contact each RTO directly to see what the plans are by each RTO to develop a more complete recreational trail experience in those RTO's. There is no centralized process for this communication. In many cases the RTO marketing of golf, food or heritage trails improves overall tourism so the overall view is that this is good for tourism.
When the OFRWG presented its list of issues to the group several requests remain on the table from years past. Licence fee re-capture, a one pass system for trails, liability and tort reform, rider education, and marketing. The OTC intends to work more closely with the COHV and the consultant to the group so that important things like the Trillium Trail Network, the 14 module OTC Trail Education Program, our pass permit and Regional Trail Committees are more fully involved in OFRWG outcomes.
The next meeting of the OTCC is scheduled for early November. As the presentations are shared by the MTCS we'll forward to the trails community. If you have any questions please give the OTC a call at 613-396-3226.