BY ANDREW SMITH
STRATFORD - Perth County staff are proceeding with a legal opinion regarding the development of a trail system along former Canadian Pacific rail lands.
Planner Geoff VanderBaaren reported on the proposed trail system at the Aug. 15 meeting, updating council members on a public meeting held last April where comments were received from land owners.
“As is fairly typical with those meetings, we hear a lot more negative than positive,” VanderBaaren said.
That said, VanderBaaren added there remains a lot of support for the trail, which would include 29 KM worth of former rail lands through Perth County and run from Guelph to Goderich.
“There is a lot of support in the community,” he said. “They’re looking at funding opportunities and how to have the trail open as soon as possible.”
VanderBaaren said the project is worthwhile going ahead with, and recommended seeking a legal opinion on the lease of the land from the province, with a potential partnership between Perth and Huron County on the development of their own section of trail.
“Huron County is doing essentially the same process as Perth County, in terms of going to the public and seeking input on the trail issues, concerns and opportunities,” Vanderbaaren said. “We’re looking to partner with them to share some of the costs of that legal review.”
VanderBaaren said the legal opinion would also look into the county’s liability for the trail and the issue of trespassing on private land, two concerns raised by residents.
“We’d be looking at some of the liability issues as well, that’s a big concern for a number of the landowners who abut the trail,” he said.
Coun. Bill French said the concerns of landowners need to considered in the development of the trail.
“I think we really have to take the landowners’ concern seriously,” French said. “Some of them are only 100 feet from the trail.”
Coun. Bob Wilhelm approached the matter at a different angle, questioning the cost of the trail project.
“We’re having trouble in maintaining the services we have, and here we are looking at another cost,” he said. “I think we have to be very cognitive of our budget costs.”
Council carried the motion to pursue a legal opinion of the draft lease document and liability aspects of the trail.