By Francis Baker
Wellington County's active transportation master plan envisions a network of trails, paved shoulders, bike lanes, and paths spanning the county and linking into trails in surrounding areas.
The plan proposes adding 750 km of new trails and routes to the 250 km already in existence across the county, at a total cost of as much as $23.76 million, spread over 20 years or more.
Finished in September, the plan is being presented to local councils, and was at Centre Wellington's Nov. 19 council meeting.
The plan was developed through extensive consultation that included an online questionnaire - replied to by more than 700 people - stakeholder workshops, public consultations and displays.
"The plan is a long-term strategy to create a pedestrian and cycling supportive environment that will encourage both utilitarian and recreational travel by walking and cycling, while promoting the importance of active lifestyles for residents and tourists," states the plan's introduction.
A well-planned and designed active transportation system will become increasingly important as fuel prices rise and obesity continues to be an issue, it states.
The plan creates north-south and east-west "spines" developed on the existing road system, plus "loops" attached to them that go through most county municipalities, and a network of local trails. Both spines run through Centre Wellington; the east-west spine connects to the Trans-Canada Trail on each side of the county.
The north-south spine begins in Clifford and travels along county roads into Wellington North, south to Mapleton, then into Centre Wellington Gerrie Road. It follows the Elora-Cataract Trail through part of Centre Wellington before turning south again on the 4th Line of West Garafraxa and heading south to Eden Mills.
In Centre Wellington itself, which already has 82 km of multi-use trails and paved shoulders, the plan proposes adding 22 km of multi-use trails, 51 km of signed routes, 9.9 km of signed routes with sharrows (lanes designated for vehicles and cyclists), and 53 km of paved shoulders, creating 218 km of routes.
Priority projects for Centre Wellington are paved shoulders on Gerrie Road, paved shoulders on roads west of Elora, and improvements on trails near Belwood Lake, county planner Sarah Wilhelm told Centre Wellington councillors.
The $6 million cost of implementing the Centre Wellington improvements would be split almost evenly between the township and county, she said.
It would be up to each municipality how they would choose to fund the plan's proposed projects - and the plan itself lays out several cost sharing options.
"Their unit cost is quite high," Wilhelm said of the plan's cost estimates. Consultants MMM Group couldn't cost out work on each individual trail, but took an average figure based on recent construction projects across Ontario.
"I really do expect some of those numbers will come down, particularly when we continue partnerships we've had with some service clubs," she said.
The general plan is for Wellington County to fund 100 percent of the cost of creating the two spine routes; work on local roads would be shared 50-50 between the county and the local municipality, and strictly local trails would be paid for totally by the local municipality.
All seven lower-tier municipalities plus the County of Wellington are on board with the plan, along with Guelph, the Ministry of Transportation, and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph public health, township CAO Andy Goldie said. "They're all working together."
Next, the group steering the master plan are applying for Healthy Communities funding and looking at requirements for signage. Some trails are well-marked, others not, and many aren't clearly marked where they start and stop.
After grant applications and approval to go ahead in the county budget, a committee is expected to be formed to oversee implementing the master plan's recommendations and projects.