By Doug Hallett
City staff want to make construction of a shared cycling-pedestrian trail along busy Woodlawn Road a priority, but they were told to look at whether this off-road project can be speeded up even more.
Coun. Bob Bell said he appreciates a staff proposal to spend $300,000 next year to start building the mixed-use trail. However, the project’s total cost is about $1 million, he said. Council approved Bell’s motion calling for staff to spell out budget implications of speeding up completion of the project. This information will go to council before the 2014 capital budget is finalized on Dec. 5.
“The longer we wait to remedy the situation, the longer we put the citizens of Guelph at risk,” Bell told a meeting Tuesday on the city’s 2014 capital budget and 10-year capital forecast.
Earlier in the meeting, Yvette Tendick, president of the Guelph Coalition for Active Transportation, had thanked city staff for their proposal to start building the Woodlawn trail and also to spend $150,000 next year on a study of which city trails could be used as an active transportation corridor for cyclists. Woodlawn Road is currently unsafe for cyclists and pedestrians, including people taking the bus in that area, she said.
“There are no sidewalks, no bike lanes, nowhere to go. It is very unsafe,” said Tendick, one of a few delegations to address council about the city’s capital budget priorities. City staff has had a design done for the shared off-road trail, which is to run between Nicklin and Elmira roads.
Meanwhile, delegate Judy Martin of the Sierra Club urged council to devote more of its capital budget to tree planting, so the city can move towards its goal of having a forest canopy covering 40 per cent of Guelph.
“Trees are a need, they are not a want for quality of life,” Martin said.
Most of the city’s proposed forestry spending over the next few years is to combat the emerald ash borer, a non-native beetle that is threatening ash trees in Guelph and many other parts of Ontario. Some of this money will go towards planting of replacement trees, council was told.
Sue Rietschin of Guelph Urban Forest Friends said green infrastructure is of enormous importance. “We suspect it’s still getting short shrift” in the city’s proposal 2014 capital budget and 10-year budget forecast.
“We would love to see the city purchase the few remaining woodlots before they get developed out of existence,” she noted.
Preconstruction starts next year on a skateboard park in a section of Silvercreek Park near the Speed River, council was told. A final design goes to a council committee in December. The $800,000 project is to be completed in 2015.