A series of informal trails throughout the city could soon become sanctioned.
Meeting as the committee of the whole earlier this week, council unanimously endorsed an agreement that could see management of several sections of trail taken over from the city by Guelph Hiking Trail Club (GHTC).
“I think this is a great way to accelerate this,” Coun. Dominique O’Rourke said of the agreement and its impact on growing trails throughout the city. “I love third-party agreements. … We leverage volunteers all the time.”
Under the terms of the draft agreement, a 1.5-km worn footpath along the west bank of the Speed River, known as Rapids Side Trail, would be formalized and improved. Those lands, explains a staff report, are partially owned by the city, Armtec, the provincial government and the Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA).
The agreement involves only the city-owned portion of the trail, as well as the section it manages on behalf of the conservation authority.
A 200-metre footpath at Marianne Park, owned by the GRCA, is also included in the deal, as is a 330-metre footpath along the north side of the Speed River at Silvercreek Park, known as the Speed River Trail, which includes a potential trail extension.
Trail improvements or modifications are dependent on city approval, the staff report notes, and will not involve “substantial changes” to existing slopes or removal of material.
However, GHTC would be responsible for removing deadfall trees and branches, clearing vegetation from within one metre of trail corridors, removal of trip hazards and debris or litter, as well as placement of stepping stones in areas of pooling or poor drainage.
Not all of council was initially supportive of the idea.
“The fact that we are entering into third-party agreements means that we are failing in our fulfilment of our own strategic objectives,” said Coun. Leanne Caron, noting that in years past, the public identified trails as the most valued public infrastructure, inspiring a new master plan and other works. “We are putting onto the community that we cannot do ourselves, or that which we are not doing ourselves.
“We’re not doing our share.”
After staff pointed out third-party agreements have been used numerous times in the past, Caron said she sees their community benefit and she voted in favour of the motion.
GHTC currently manages three sections of trail on the city’s behalf – along the Speed River near the wastewater treatment plant, Arkell Spring Ground trail and along the Eramosa River on city-owned lands that used to be part of the Guelph reformatory property.
In addition, the committee unanimously approved a motion delegating third-party trails agreements to city staff.
Both the GHTC agreement and delegation motion will head to council on Sept. 27 for potential ratification.