I get it--if the community had to be consulted on every single issue that Council voted on, progress would probably be even slower than it is now. But it seems like constituents were not, and should have been, consulted before a vote took place to install wastewater infrastructure underneath the Chain of Lakes Trail (COLT). As early as October, and for up to two years, portions of the trail will be closed for the construction of such infrastructure designed to service Brunello Estates in Timberlea (and ultimately increasing housing developments in Beechville, Lakeside and Timberlea).
Not only does it seem like constituents were not consulted ahead of the decision--many regular trail users may still not know about it. [See Tim Bousquet’s The Coast piece “Most Chain of Lakes Trail users don't know about sewer project”].
I probably wouldn’t have known about the plans for the COLT either if it weren’t for my friend Catherine. She is a regular user, by foot and bike, of the trail. She is among the recreationalists and commuters who make up the estimated 120,000 to 180,000 person trips per year (according to Parks Canada’s Alain Boudreau’s December 2012 report.)
How many people will actually be affected?
In a HalifaxNewsNet article by Yvette d’Entremont, Councillor Linda Mosher is quoted as saying: “Each section [of the trail] will take between three and six weeks to complete and when one section is closed for work, the remainder of the trail will be open…There will be signs to alert people the work is taking place, and they will indicate detours. Once they’ve fixed one section, it will reopen and they’ll go on to the next.”
Perhaps then the disruptions in the trail will not have a huge impact on general recreationalists. However, one question that should be addressed is: How many people have been relying on the trail for commuting to work on a regular basis by bicycle and other forms of active transportation? Will the aforementioned detours affect the feasibility of commuting?
Is this decision the most sustainable?
Mosher and Councillor Russell Walker co-wrote a letter, dated August 6, to their constituents explaining the Lakeside Pumping Station Diversion Project: the plans to “construct a system to transfer wastewater from Lakeside Park Drive (Beechville) to Joseph Howe Drive, and connect it to the Bedford Highway Interceptor Sewer. Part of this system will run underneath the HRM-owned trail.” (Bousquet included a copy of the letter with his piece “Chain of Lakes Trail obfuscation continues” , August 14, 2013.)
The letter describes the two other alternatives that were considered: “routing the infrastructure through Fairview” and “an upgrade and expansion of the Beechville/Lakeside/Timberlea wastewater treatment facility”.
A major reasoning why these two other alternatives were shot down, the letter explains, is the cost. The former alternative would cost $9 million more and the latter would be double the cost of constructing wastewater infrastructure under portions of the COLT. I wonder if these cost assessments are entirely all-encompassing and if they reflect sound planning for the future.
- How much did it cost to develop the COLT in the first place? (And remember the trail only officially opened just over two years ago). ·
- With visions of expanding communities in Beechville, Lakeside and Timberlea, is it smart not to invest in its central treatment facility? I’ve heard that apparently the harbourside treatment facility (where the wastewater in question will be diverted) isn’t able to treat in large rain events. Given that more wastewater will be delivered to that plant this could mean that smaller rain events will create the same overflow issues.
Should active transportation continue to be a lesser priority?
One last thought. Was disrupting a series of streets, rather than a trail, ever really taken seriously? I vaguely remember as a kid, our street was torn up for a month or two and residents parked their cars on the next street over. Every time my family needed to drive somewhere, we would get an extra 10-15 minutes of exercise--a very good thing considering my brother and I were glued to our television set.
I don’t know what the exact logistics would have involved if the infrastructure were to be routed through Fairview rather than underneath the COLT. Of course if someone has mobility issues, having their residential roadway torn up would be a concern. But for the majority, would temporarily parking on the next block really be a huge deal? Such a thing could have ended up having a positive impact on physical health. Hell, it might have ended up inspiring more people in the area to start walking, biking, rollerblading or jogging the COLT.