Sunday, June 15, 2008

catching up with some trail development

*CATCH News – **June 15, 2008***

*Major west end trail expansion*

A major addition to the walking and cycling trail system in west Hamilton will provide a direct link between the the Kirkendall neighbourhood and the Dundas Valley. A proposal to purchase and lease nearly two kilometres of CP rail line goes to the public works committee tomorrow morning (June 16).

The agreement would see the city purchase a 900 metre right of way from the Fortino’s property on Main West to Stroud Avenue, and sign a 20-year lease for an additional 820 metres across the 403 connecting Stroud to Studholme Avenue. A final 350 metre section of trail would run along the north edge of Chedoke Golf Course.

An existing rough and narrow path along the rail line has been used informally by cyclists for several years as an off-road route across the 403, but that practice has had no legal sanction. That would be replaced by a 5 metre wide paved path, with a narrower section along the golf course.

The city already has an agreement that links Fortino’s with the Ewen Road terminus of the popular Hamilton Conservation Authority rail trail that extends into the Dundas Valley and on to Brantford, Paris and Cambridge forming a 90-kilometre off-road trail system. At the other end, the new trail would link with the radial line path up the escarpment from Chedoke to Mohawk Road.

The agreement requires an independent appraisal of the property being sold, but there is already agreement between CP and the city that the purchase price won’t exceed $725,000 – an amount the staff report says is “significantly less” than the potential value of the land. The city will provide CP with a charitable tax receipt for any additional value and will name CP as the sponsor of the resulting trail.

Some of the property may be contaminated so the report warns that “the offer to purchase will be contingent on the outcome of the site investigations, and if unexpected conditions are found, this may require abandoning of the project, renegotiation or alternate action.”

However, provincial regulations exempt trail projects from some cleanup requirements since there is usually little or no disturbance of potentially contaminated soils. Staff note that some excavation may be necessary if a decision is made to install lighting along portions of the trail, so they are recommending soil testing before the deal is finalized.

Funds for the purchase were approved in last year’s capital budget. A one-time payment of $150,000 for the 20-year lease would be covered by the annual cycling budget.

Staff say the golf course section – which would require “some relocation of golf tees” – has been worked out with neighbours by ward councillor Brian McHattie.

“Staff and councillor McHattie met with the neighbours , the consultant and a representative of Hamilton Police Service on site last summer and the proposed layout was satisfactory to them,” notes the report, “although the police specifically suggested that for maximum safety the path through the golf course not lighted to discourage night-time use.”

While giving city residents direct access to the recreational trails in the Dundas Valley and beyond, the new route will also provide commuter cycling links with the university and the Innovation Park research development planned for Longwood Road.

“The trail is the missing link in a circular route which connects to trails at the top of the escarpment and provides a safe riding environment and excellent scenery and perspective of the centre of Hamilton”, notes the staff report. “Recreational cycling is a key intermediate step to encourage citizens to consider cycling as a commuting mode.”

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