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HCM wants to avoid legal fight with Renfrew County over Algonquin Trail

By Sean Chase, The Daily Observer

The Trans-Canada Highway, heading in to Head, Clara and Maria Township. The township says it doesn’t want to get into a legal battle with the County of Renfrew over the Algonquin Trail.

The Trans-Canada Highway, heading in to Head, Clara and Maria Township. The township says it doesn’t want to get into a legal battle with the County of Renfrew over the Algonquin Trail.

 

Head, Clara, Maria (HCM) Township says it doesn’t want to get into a legal battle with the County of Renfrew over the Algonquin Trail.

County council supported a request from the development and property committee to spend $20,000 to obtain a legal opinion in the face of claims from HCM that the trail has been developed and pushed through without consultation with the municipality. Of the 219 kilometres that make up the Algonquin Trail, 65 kilometres run through HCM.

Although the Algonquin Trail Advisory Committee met with the township on Jan. 23 to provide an update on the trail, HCM council did pass a resolution calling for direct meetings with County staff to resolve outstanding issues over public safety on the multi-use trail and the risks involved. The township is equally concerned about lower tier liability and indemnification with respect to crossings on municipal roads and unopened road allowances and the restrictions and costs associated with by-passes imposed by the County.

The township also wants the lease agreement with Missing Link Snowmobile Club rescinded immediately, a deal that had originally been requested by former HCM Mayor Jim Gibson back in the fall of 2016. HCM is also seeking a commitment from the county to provide resources to enforce trail rules and provide or finance increased police presence on the artery, as well as assistance with fire management and suppression costs due to increased traffic on the trail.

In a Jan. 24 letter to County council, HCM clerk/chief administrative officer Melinda Reith stated the municipality felt “blindsided” by the appearance of snow machines speeding past residential properties along the trail corridor alleging those drivers were disrespecting municipal roads and private property. She noted they received a legal opinion that concluded the counties that purchased the former Canadian Pacific Line in order to establish the Ottawa Valley Recreation Trail, which is called the Algonquin Trail in Renfrew County, “overstepped their authority.” Reith added they don’t want to stop the trail from being developed.

“Council would like to be heard when determining which sections should be motorized, which should not and to be a constructive part of the management plan within our municipality in the future and not be bullied into compliance by an upper tier without consultation,” she wrote.

However, during debate on the resolution to obtain the legal opinion, HCM Mayor Robert Reid said he doesn’t want this to be a fight between the county and the township adding they are not against the trail. Reid said his council reacted the complaints and concerns of residents adding he didn’t believe information about the trail had been delivered back to council by Gibson, who abruptly resigned last July without explanation.

“I know in my heart of hearts that information was given at County that wasn’t coming back to us and vice-versa,” said Reid. “We don’t want this going on any longer. This is something that has got to be worked out between the trail and the people involved. Our council wants to get past this and get behind it. We want to move forward and not be in a knock out, blown down fight.”

Arnprior Reeve Walter Stack, who met with HCM council during that Jan. 23 meeting, said he was surprised to hear such a conciliatory message from Reid and was shocked to hear that the township would have any objections to a trail that could provide enormous economic spin-offs in terms of tourism. While he also wanted to avoid a lawsuit, Stack advocated spending $100,000 to have the matter settled once and for all.

“Let’s get it in the courts and get it done,” he said.

Petawawa Mayor Bob Sweet, who chairs the Algonquin Trail Advisory Committee, extended an olive branch to Reid and his council explaining that it was Gibson who came to council and supported the lease agreement with Missing Link. The county complied with what the member from HCM at the time asked for, Sweet added.

“It’s not our manner to take on a legal fight with another member municipality,” he said. “We have spent hours to make this happen and it is a legacy and the backbone of a huge opportunity.”

 



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