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Thursday, February 12, 2015

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TransCanada link could extend Hunters Bay Trail

Huntsville Forester
HUNTSVILLE – A west-end trail could soon wind a little further along the waterfront in Huntsville.
Rebecca Francis, sustainability co-ordinator for the Town of Huntsville, and Colleen MacDonald, manager of parks and cemeteries for the town, presented a report to town councillors during a general committee meeting on Jan. 28 about the possible extension of the Hunters Bay Trail.
Francis said the long-standing project would add 2.4 kilometres, including 750 metres of waterfront, to the west end of the 3.8-kilometre multipurpose trail that winds along the Muskoka River.
She said plans for the trail extension – which would travel from Orchard Park under the bridge at Highway 11 to Lakewood Park Road before connecting with the Trans Canada Trail at Old Ferguson Road – have been a topic of discussion for more than a decade.
But she said two changes have prompted the possibility to actually completing the project – 2015 Pan Am and Para-Pan Am Games legacy funding and new Ministry of Transportation policies.
“Trans Canada Trail Ontario has been given legacy funds for the Pan Am Games,” she said.
The legacy funds will support Trans Canada Trail connections.
“There are over a dozen projects on the list for that legacy fund and Huntsville is one of them,” said Francis. “They have about $200,000 they have earmarked to help us with this project.”
And, she said, the ministry has finally agreed to let the town build part of the trail on a provincial right of way as the ministry now has policies that support active transportation.
The project would cost about $583,000. The town has applied for $203,500 from the games’ legacy fund and Trans Canada Trail, a national organization, would fund a further $168,250. The town would be responsible for about $211,250.
Francis said the games’ legacy funds would have to be spent in 2015. And the project would have to be complete by 2017 to qualify for the national Trans Canada Trail funding.
Coun. Jonathan Wiebe asked if Francis thought this would be the best way to spend budgeted active transportation funds.
“There are a lot of projects in active transportation that I would love to see happen and this is just as good as any of them,” responded Francis.
She said the trail extension would provide a west-end active transportation corridor into downtown, while promoting a tourist attraction and providing enhanced public access to waterfront.
Councillors agreed to discuss the project during the 2015 budget meeting scheduled for Feb. 11.