Mr. Ray Osmond
Director of Parks, Recreation and Culture
Municipality of New Tecumseth
10 Wellington Street East
Alliston, ON L9R 1A1
RE: Trails, Private Land Use and Completing the Trans Canada Trail in Ontario
Dear Mr. Osmond;
Thanks for the opportunity to comment on the issue of recreational trails and farmland in New Tecumseth.
Firstly, let me say that your efforts to complete trail and the section of the Trans Canada Trail on lands under your authorized management and control is something the Ontario Trails Council supports.
In Ontario, there are over 80,000 kilometers of trail, much of which is in southern Ontario where the majority of private land issues arise. Most of Ontario’s farmland is in central and southern Ontario and this makes up roughly 63% of Ontario’s trail inventory.
Thusly, the majority of trail in south west and central Ontario is near, or passes through some form of managed or private land ownership or commercial operation, that could include farming, logging, wetland protection or park.
In fact many trails, such as the Upper Grand Trailway have been supplied interpretive signage through OMAFRA grants to explain faming uses adjacent to the trail to promote agriculture appreciation. Hundreds of other trails operate harmoniously with farmers, such as the Chrysler Greenway in Essex and the Millennium Trail in Prince Edward County.
It is also, in our opinion, more than reasonable to state that the vast majority of this @26,000 kilometers of trail does not involve threat of closure or re-route requests on the part of local landowners or business owners. While there are situations where there may be trail use issues, they tend to be local in nature and remediated through public meeting, signage and effective ongoing trail wardenship and stewardship practices.
The OTC supported New Tecumseh trail development in 1999-2001 as the agent of the Trans Canada Trail in Ontario, and we believe that completing and providing additional trail capacity in New Tecumseth is of great public value. A public value that does not unreasonably impact on farming or private business operation, and which, when or if it does these issues can be usually be resolved without the dissolution of the current trail routing.
Our research shows that at that time of initial master plan and TCT development the public officials of New Tecumseth met with the public, local landowners, and local land-managers as a process of due diligence to implement the trail route in New Tecumseth.
Importantly, during this process you, and others in your office engaged the public, listened to concerns and resolved many land use agreements in the process. Many of these sessions involved local farmers and local agreements were reached with not only the farmers, but representatives of these farmers, such as the local Board of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture.
We are also given to understand that during the fall on 2013 additional meetings were held at which time additional permissions and resolutions were discussed and agreed upon. These progressive discussions involved the go ahead to seek funds and complete routes.
At OTC, we expect that private land rights be respected. We expect users to expect and respect other users. We do not approve trespass, nor do we endorse trail users negatively impacting on any land use practice or negatively on the environment or eco-systems through which a trail may travel.
We do expect public consultation and negotiated settlement on the part of users, land managers, land owners, route planners, tourists, accessibility to be promoted, top quality amenities and rules and expectations provided through signage. Moreover, we really appreciate consultation with volunteer groups and trail non-profits that support local trail, when public consultation takes place.
At OTC we understand that the Municipality is seeking new information about issues that have come to light, bison and bison ranching impacts from trail use.
In our opinion, the Municipality of New Tecumseth has enacted a thought out and publicly consulted trail master plan development process; worked with the local business community to define issues and a pathway to issue resolution; learned about new issues in order to resolve these issues; involved local trail volunteers and trail management groups, and is not unduly impinging on the rights of concerned groups to continue business in conjunction with future trail traffic, users, wardens and stewards.
Based on your due process and diligence, we would recommend that New Tecumseth support the recommendations of staff as you work to complete the TCT trail.
Ontario Trails Council