| Sep 07, 2006


Feature Article - September 7, 2006

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Feature Article - September 7, 2006

South Frontenac to explore K&PTrail option

by Jeff Green

Last month Kingston City Council decided to make an offer of purchase to Nexacor (the real estate arm of Bell Canada ) for 15 km. of land for a non-motorised trail along the old K&P rail bed. That decision has rekindled interest in developing the K&P trail for most members of South Frontenac Council.

In a 7-2 vote at a meeting on Tuesday night, September 5, council passed the following resolution;

“That Council authorise the CAO [Chief Administrative Officer] to enter into discussions with the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority [CRCA] for the possible acquisition and management of the portion of the K&P Rail Line which passes through the Township of South Frontenac with final approval to be given by Council once a satisfactory agreement is arranged.”

Amalgamation

The Conservation Authority has operated the Cataraqui Trail, an east-west nature trail, for 12 years. The first stretch of the old K&P line that would likely be developed into a trail in South Frontenac would be an 8 kilometre stretch between the proposed Kingston K&P, which ends at the border with South Frontenac at Murvale, and the Cataraqui trail at Harrowsmith.

A longer portion of trail would run north towards Sharbot Lake , where it could join up with the Trans Canada Trail that is already in place.

Councillor Bill Robinson, who represents the Portland District, where most of the trail would be located, was the major dissenting voice.

“I am not against trails,” he said, “but it is too much money. We’ve gone down this road before, and I don’t think it is the place of this council to be looking at spending $60,000, plus surveying costs, plus insurance, plus fencing, plus making the trail, which are all unknowns. This should be left to the new council. I don’t think that we, as grown up people, who are responsible for people’s money, should be talking about spending this kind of money for a walking trail.”

Bedford councillor David Hahn, who proposed the motion and has long advocated for the K&P trail, said “Nexacor and the city have agreed to a price of $2,000 an acre. I think in fact this is an opportunity to do something we need to do. The city has had this as a goal for a long time. They have negotiated a deal. What we are talking about here is beginning discussions.”

Hahn then talked about a potential source of money or the project.

“ Del [Bedford District Councillor Del Stowe] and I are willing to talk to the Bedford District Rec. Committee about spending some of the Bedford Parkland Reserve on this. As you know there is $300,000 in the parkland reserve fund … And if the trail becomes part of the Trans-Canada Trail, there is a $2,000 per kilometre grant that we can access as well.”

Quite apart from the costs of surveys, which may or may not be necessary for the entire length of the trail, and the rehabilitation costs along the length of the rail bed, the century-old Ontario Line Fences Act is a major obstacle to the development of the K&P trail, both in South and Central Frontenac. Central Frontenac would have to come on side in order for the dream of a Kingston/Frontenac leg of the Trans-Canada trail to be realised.

Section 20, subsection C of the Line Fences Act, clearly delineates the responsibility for fencing that municipalities incur when they purchase abandoned railway lines.

Any municipality or Crown agency that purchases an abandoned railroad right of way and does not own the abutting land is “responsible for constructing, keeping up and repairing the fences that mark the lateral boundaries of such land.” (sec. 20, subsection c, Ontario Line Fences Act)

In the early 1990s a so-called rails-to-trails movement took hold in Ontario , and municipalities throughout the province began purchasing and developing abandoned railroad rights of way as trails, under the assumption that the courts would not apply the Line Fences Act literally.

A couple of farmers in southwest Ontario, backed by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, changed that, and two cases went to the Supreme Court of Ontario, where the Line Fences Act was upheld and the municipalities were forced to pay for fencing.

Central Frontenac, which had purchased a section of the K&P line running north from Highway 7 several years ago, found themselves forced to do fencing by residents on the abutting land, and found the costs to be exorbitant, at well over $20,000 per kilometre.

In 2004, the last time South Frontenac Council addressed the K&P trail issue, a motion of interest was passed, with the proviso that the Line Fences Act must be changed before the township will proceed.

In 2006, the Line Fences Act remains the most difficult obstacle to developing the K&P trail, and although a report on changes to the act was prepared last year, legislated changes to the Act are not on the front burner at Queen’s Park.

Still, South Frontenac councillors are hoping that section 20 of the Act will be amended so that it only applies to active farms abutting railway beds, instead of all properties, as is still the case.

Another issue that is sure to complicate matters, even if the Line Fences Act is changed, is the use of ATVs on the trails. The Kingston and Cataraqui Trails do not permit ATVs and that is not likely to change, whereas the Trans-Canada Trail between Tweed and Sharbot Lake is managed by the Tweed-based Eastern Ontario Trails Alliance, which has ATV tourism as its primary focus.

There are many people in South Frontenac who oppose ATV use of trails, and there are others who argue that trails are not economically viable without 4-wheeler traffic.

These divisions exist on council as well.

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