The K&P Trail may be suffering from the curse of the K&P railroad. The old Kick and Push, as it was not always affectionately called back in the day, was originally intended to run between Lake Ontario and the Ottawa River, from Kingston to Pembroke, K to P.
However, costs were high and the money ran out, leaving a K&P that ran only from K to C, Kingston to Calabogie.
Now, long after the K&P shut down, a trail being constructed on its track bed, which will bring the Cataraqui trail and Frontenac County into the Trans Canada Trail network, finds itself stalled at kilometre 64.5, of its intended 77 kilometre length, just about a kilometre north of the Bradshaw Road in Central Frontenac.
There are two related problems. The trail is under water for at least a 500 metre stretch in that swampy location, water that is 60 cm deep in places, and there is no money left in the construction budget to deal with the problem. And there is another flooded spot further to the north as well.
“To put it bluntly, work is grinding to a halt” Richard Allen told a meeting of Frontenac County Council last week (June 20).
The estimated cost to complete the two flooded sections and the rest of the work remaining for the K&P trail to join up with the east-west trans Canada trail just south of Sharbot Lake is over $650,000, which will need to be raised somehow as there are no granting programs available currently to help cover the costs.
And that $650,000 is by no means a firm number.
Pointing out that the flooded sections are complex and may also present “environmental challenges” Allen recommends that an engineering firm be hired, at a cost of $25,000, to do an assessment and present detailed designs before the work is undertaken. Only when that work is done will it be possible to determine the actual cost for the two flooded sections. In current cost estimates, the price to complete them both is set at $310,500.
Construction will not proceed in any meaningful way in 2018, with a best case scenario that the work will be done in 2019 or 2020.
This might come as a surprise to residents because a ceremonial trail opening event took place last June in Sharbot Lake as part of the year long Canada 150 celebrations in Central Frontenac. Even though the trail was not complete at that point, it was expected to be done by the end of 2017 or by Canada Day 2018 at the very latest.
In a telephone interview after last week’s county meeting, Richard Allen said that at that time he was just becoming aware of the extent of the flooding.
“I had only been with the county for six months or so at the time and while I had heard in the spring of last year that there were flooding issues north of Bradshaw road, it was a little later on that I saw how serious it was,” he said. “When it is done, that will be the jewel of the trail since it is a beautiful stretch of land, but getting there will not be easy.”
Loans or the re-allocation of some federal infrastructure grant money are two options that were mentioned at the June 20 meeting as ways of finding the new money without going directly to county ratepayers to fund it.
“It’s not the kind of loan where you can go to bank and talk about a return on investment,” said South Frontenac Mayor Ron Vandewal, “it’s not like you can project a return of three dollars for every dollar invested.”
“More like a one dollar return for every 3 dollars invested,” said Deputy Warden Dennis Doyle, the Mayor of Frontenac Islands Township.
County staff are proposing another option to fund the completion of the trail, an allocation from Federal Gas Tax funds, funds that are currently controlled by local townships. A proposal will be brought forward at the next County meeting in July to establish a county roads system, on paper only, in order access provincial infrastructure money under the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund (OCIF). The county would then allocate those monies to township public works projects, freeing up the townships to upload some of their gas tax money to be used on the trail.
“It would be a trade off, but the townships would see a net increase funding for their own infrastructure needs, said County Chief Administrative Officer Kelly Pender. “OCIF money cannot be spent on trail construction but gas tax money can.”
Central Frontenac Mayor Frances Smith said “it might be time to look at private sector money for the trail.”
Last week’s presentation from Richard Allen included, for the first time, an account of how much money has been spent developing the trail since 2008, when the project first appeared on the county books.
The total spent so far is $3.7 million. Of that about $1.1 million came from successful grant applications for trail construction. A further $2.2 million came from more generic grants that the county received and then allocated to the trail, including $1.7 million in federal gas tax monies, and $383,000 came from reserve funds.
There has been no direct financial levy to Frontenac County ratepayers for K&P trail construction costs thus far.
None of the politicians who decided to commit Frontenac County to building the K&P trail back in 2006 and 2007, nor any of the senior staff members at Frontenac County, are still there today, as the gravel hits the swamp.