The term “happy trails” has even more meaning for Dianne Flook following Chatham-Kent Council’s approval for the Round the River Route trail.
“This trail has been a dream of a lot of people for years,” she said. “It will be a tremendous showcase for our community.”
Flook, chair of the Chatham-Kent Trails Council, said the work of municipal staff in getting a grant to kick-start the project is greatly appreciated.
“We know how dollars are scarce these days and to see staff committed and council picking up on the community’s needs and wishes this way is amazing,” she said.
Council approved plans for a 21.5 kilometre trail, to be done in a number of stages from now through 2019. Total cost of the project is $5.8 million with the first $325,000 of the project being funded through the Ontario Municipal Cycling Infrastructure Program (OMCIP).
The trail, for use by both walkers and cyclists, will parallel Riverview Line heading westward, cross the Prairie Siding Bridge and then back down Grand River Line toward Chatham.
The exact size of the trail would depend on accessible right of way area.
The municipality is investigating the possibility of linking the trail with one to be built along Winter Line Road north to Pain Court in time for the 2018 International Plowing Match that year.
Flook said the availability of trails for cycling and hiking is becoming a factor in tourism.
“People are adopting a more active lifestyle,” she said. “They want vacations and travel excursions where they do things rather than just sit someplace.”
Chatham-Kent’s flat terrain makes it particularly attractive for biking and hiking. “You don’t have to be a mountaineer to get up and down our trails and yet you’re outside in some of the most beautiful rural areas in Canada. We’re really blessed.”
She said the trail committee is attracting more people all the time. “We had about 18 people out last month,” she said.
Jeff Bray, Chatham-Kent manager of parks and open spaces, said last year’s trail guide brochure was snapped up and the municipality is in the process of having more printed.
In addition to the Round the River Route trail, council also approved more than $314,000 in funding for 10 trail projects throughout the municipality.
In Chatham, plans call for construction of a 550-metre north trail at the O’Neill Nature Preserve and a trail and boat dock at Parry Landing at the western end of the Thames River Trail.
Dresden will see construction of a 1.2 kilometre trail at Lambton Kent Composite School with links to the Rotary Trail and the Dresden Cemetery.
In Erieau, upgrades are planed for the Erie Shore Trail while Ridgetown will be the site of upgrades to the T.R.E.E.S trail involving widening, bench installation, and a link to KSR and drainage work.
A new 625-metre trail will be constructed in Shrewsbury.
Paw Paw Woods in Wallaceburg will benefit from a 100-metre trail to connect to Wallace Street and Crothers Park Trail will have a number of upgrades.
Plans are also in place for signage, benches and fencing where needed right across the municipality.
Chatham-Kent has more than 40 trails with 60 kilometers of length already in existence.