By Duncan O'Dell
Published July 30, 2010
I am writing to raise some publicity for an online petition I have started to support a City of Hamilton initiative to build a paved multi-use trail (e.g. pedestrian, bicycle, in-line skates etc) in west Hamilton. Unfortunately, it is currently mired in legal debate.
The proposed route of the multi-use trail (PDF link) begins at the intersection of Glenside & Chedoke Avenues (where it connects to the existing Hamilton bicycle network), runs along the northern edge of Chedoke golf course, along Studholme Rd, cross the 403 Highway using the existing Canadian Pacific Railway bridge, and ends in Ainslie Wood (where it joins the Brantford Rail-Trail) which is the residential area immediately south of McMaster University and Hospital.
The route for the trail was largely conceived during the 2005/2006 Kirkendall Neighbourhood Traffic Management Study, which was a consultation between residents and the City planners.
Speaking as someone who bicycles every day between my home in Kirkendall and my work at McMaster, this trail would be a big improvement in my safety and quality of life (I would no longer have to take Aberdeen, Longwood and Main.)
As well as those people whom it might tempt into commuting by bicycle, it would also be a fantastic addition to our recreational infrastructure, since it connects the trails on the two sides of the 403 Highway. There are currently only three places to cross the 403 Highway from west Hamilton to Westdale and Dundas: King St., Main St., and Longwood Ave. These are all very busy roads which act a big deterrent against would-be cyclists.
Note that McMaster University has 7,500 employees and 23,000 students, so the trail could have a large positive ecological impact in terms of encouraging bicycle commuters.
Cyclists have been eagerly awaiting this trail for many years and in March 2010 it finally received approval from the Niagara Escarpment Commission (who control any construction on the Chedoke golf course land). However, some residents along the northern edge of Chedoke golf course are appealing this decision.
To be fair, almost all of them are in favour of a trail in principle, but they don't want it to pass too close to their properties. They have legitimate concerns: if a trail user is hit by a golf ball and the city reacts by building a huge fence that will ruin their view, then they understandably don't want that.
I am sympathetic to their having influence on the precise routing of the trail, but on the other side of the coin these delays now put the whole trail at risk. At the request of the appellants, approval for the trail has already been delayed twice this year (the NEC appeal hearing is now scheduled for August 4 and 6) and now risks further delay or even cancellation.
The window to start new construction this year is essentially now over. The City money for the trail is already three years old, and such "old money" stands a high chance of being re-directed to other worthy causes.
Furthermore, finding funding for this trail and pushing it through all the bureaucratic hurdles has taken a lot of political courage from progressive councillors such as Brian McHattie (Ward 1). The council elections this fall may change the political landscape.
The purpose of the petition is to demonstrate that there is wide support in the community for this long-awaited trail. If enough people sign it, I hope it will encourage the parties on both sides to come to a quick compromise.
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