Wellesley should develop a trails master plan, boosting public awareness to avoid the kinds of problems that emerged recently over a trail proposed for a new subdivision in Wellesley Village, says a new study.
A group of University of Guelph planning students presented the ideas to township council Monday night, reporting the results of research that included a public meeting last month.
Their work came out of an effort to calm Wellesley residents’ fears in the on-going debate about where public trails should be established in the township.
The project was being graded by professors who were in attendance to hear Shannon McIntyre, Cristal Heintzman, Jeff Mederios and Rob Sissions give their recommendations to council about how to proceed with building the trails.
“The basic point of the project was to try to alleviate some of the contention that was going on within the community regarding the trail system that was being proposed back in December,” said Mederios.
The report found residents showed concern over two major issues, safety on the trails and the use of private land to create the trail space.
Although the Mar. 9 meeting was sparsely attended, attributed to snowy weather conditions, the students were able to form a recommendation of what was most agreeable to be done about the issue. The first step is to hold more public awareness meetings, they said. The township should also look into developing a trails master plan, so residents who are intending to move into the Wellesley area can do so knowing where the trails will be ahead of time.
“Starting communication is a very important aspect of building the trails master plan,” Mederios said.
“This is on different levels, municipal council, residents, real estate agents and developers within the community. This will help alleviate debate in the community.”
Council discussed the strategy, highlighting its use elsewhere in the region as an example of the type of success it may have in Wellesley.
“In Kitchener right now trails are there before the subdivision is even mapped out. That’s part of the parks plan, that’s part of the trails plan and when people walk in they know that trail is there,” said Coun. Jim Olender.
The final recommendation of the students was to hold more public meetings to create awareness and communication about the trails, something council deferred to another meeting, but felt favorably about doing.
“It was a good experience for all of us,” said Mederios. “By having a plan in place before they do any further development, that would alleviate any contention that exists.”