30-year fix chosen for Talbot Trail

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By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The long-awaited fix to reopen an erosion-ravaged section of Talbot Trail is a go.

At its Feb. 26 meeting, Chatham-Kent council approved a recommendation to spend $4 million to create a new section of roadway to facilitate the reopening of the lakeside road between Coatsworth Road and Stevenson Road.

The decision was met with applause from spectators attending the meeting, many who dressed in red as a show of support for administration’s plan.

Both West Kent councillors voiced their support for the plan.

Coun. Melissa Harrigan recalled the “frustration” felt by the community when the road was closed in 2019, calling it one of the “first tragedies” to affect Wheatley area residents.

“We really need to be thinking of the broader community and the links between our communities when we’re making these choices,” Harrigan said, noting Chatham-Kent faced some hard decisions on the matter.

Coun. Lauren Anderson said she’s “honoured” to be part of the solution to the inconvenience posed by the detour area residents have experienced since the Talbot Trail section was detoured.

“Ultimately, this is the best solution,” said Anderson, noting she doesn’t see another alternative that makes more common sense.

A total of nine deputations on the matter were presented to council at the meeting, but not all were in favour of the plan. Some of the residents who spoke urged the municipality to continue with a proposal supported by the previous council that would have moved the road inland.

Dr. John Mann, a retired engineer who helped lead the charge against that option, commended staff and council on being open to an alternative solution. His farm would have been one of the properties bisected by the original proposal.

He told council the majority of residents are in full support of the latest recommendation.

“The Talbot Trail is a historic heritage highway,” Mann said in his comments. “It doesn’t just belong to those who live there or along it, it belongs to everyone in Chatham-Kent who uses it.”

That original plan – referred to as the 100-year fix – was estimated to cost $40 million and would have led to the expropriation of privately owned farmland and woodland. It recommended building a new two-lane rural arterial roadway from Ellerbeck Road to Stevenson Road, following the existing 2nd Concession Line.

By contrast, the approved fix is being called the 30-year solution. It moves the highway 72 metres away from the shore and requires purchasing property from only two landowners.

The affected section of Talbot Trail was closed by the municipality in July 2019 due to safety risks posed by slope and road failure due to the unstable bluff along Lake Erie. Since that time, traffic has been rerouted away from the lake around a greenhouse operation.

Because of the closure, C-K launched a Class Environmental Assessment study in February of 2020 that was completed in May of 2023.

Following council’s endorsement, the EA study addendum will be finalized and notices will be sent to all property owners within the study area. A 30-day review period will then take place, after which the municipality will begin design. Construction is planned for 2025.

The municipality will also be sending a letter to the province asking for funding assistance to help relocate Talbot Trail and to mitigate the impacts of erosion, considering its status as a former provincial highway.

According to engineering staff, the recommended fix is based on erosion rates of one metre per year, however detractors say it will be far more considering the impacts of climate change.

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