Kingston city staff are to look for ways to connect the rural portion of the K&P Trail to the city centre. (Elliot Ferguson/The Whig-Standard)
The city could be racing the clock to complete the long-awaited urban portion of the K&P Trail.
Council directed staff on Tuesday night to start work on plans to complete the urban portion of the trail in time for Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017.
“The question isn’t really if we want to do this, but when,” Sydenham District Coun. Peter Stroud, who put forward the motion, said.
Finishing the urban portion of the trail would connect Kingston to the Cataraqui Trail, which is part of the national Trans Canada Trail.
Finishing the K&P in Kingston has been on city council’s to-do list for about a decade and it was again included among the strategic priorities for the current council earlier this spring.
Stroud said the motion only creates a timeline for a project that is already on the list of future plans.
The nation’s sesquicentennial provides the motivation to finally finish the urban portion of the trail.
“We don’t have a choice on the date,” Stroud said.
Countryside District Coun. Richard Allen said the trail could provide a valuable link between the city’s rural and urban areas.
But Allen said he was concerned about the potential costs.
He also noted that the Waterfront Trail, which connects communities around Lake Ontario, runs through the heart of Kingston.
In the Kingston area, with the exception of a short section through Lake Ontario Park, the Waterfront Trail consists largely of bike lanes on roadways.
The K&P Trail, being a former railway, is entirely separate from roads except for intersections.
“The Trans Canada Trail is some distance from the heart of Kingston,” he said.
Allen’s concerns about cost were reinforced by a caution from Community Services Commissioner Lanie Hurdle.
Hurdle said city staff would look at different options to complete the trail, but she said the work could be expensive.
“I need to stress, the cost estimates are not going to be $200,000, $400,000,” she said. “We are talking about millions of dollars.”
Mayor Bryan Paterson was also concerned about council adopting motions that call for action on specific priorities, since there are more than 40 such items in six broad caterories.
What makes this project stand out from the others is the timing, Paterson said.
The K&P Trail was built on the rail bed of the former Kingston and Pembroke Railway, a post-Confederation project that, according to the original plan, would service the burgeoning mining, lumber and agricultural economies of eastern Ontario as it snaked its way from the shores of Lake Ontario to the Ottawa River.
The railway was never built all the way to Pembroke, and as timber and mining declined, the line was leased to the Canadian Pacific Railway for 999 years starting in 1912.
Today there are six access points in the 15-km multi-use trail in the semi-rural and rural part of Kingston between Little Cataraqui Creek and Orser Road.
Beyond the confines of Kingston, the K&P Trail runs 31 km from Orser Road to White Lake Road.
The trail has become a key to the tourism strategies of Frontenac County and its member townships.
Frontenac County is celebrating its sesquicentennial in 2015.
County council was briefed on the trail’s development at Wednesday morning’s council meeting. Its development has been supported by funding from the Frontenac Community Futures Development Corporation for bridge engineering and building, the Eastern Ontario Trails Alliance and the Trans Canada Trail trail development grants.