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Airport walking trail spurs debate

Local resident brings forward concerns with environment, erosion and safety around trail now under construction

A north-south trail being constructed from Taunton Road to Glencairn Street has drawn concerns from local residents. (Image courtesy of the City of Oshawa)

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

Residents of a north Oshawa neighbourhood are calling on the city to halt construction of a pathway between the Oshawa Executive Airport and the Oshawa Creek until further study and permitting is done.

Appearing before councillors during a recent meeting of the Community Services committee, resident Julia McCrea detailed her concerns with the ongoing work to construct a multi-use path running north-south between Jane Street and Taunton Road.

The trail, part of the city’s Active Transportation Master Plan, is meant to connect the multi-use path at Taunton Road West to Glencairn Street in the Glen’s Neighbourhood.

However, for McCrea, she says there are serious safety, security and environmental concerns with the project moving forward.

“The City of Oshawa has not shown due diligence in consulting with neighbourhood residents and considering and addressing the following concerns. This is a potential waste of taxpayer dollars which could be redirected to trail construction in an alternate safer area of the city,” she states.

In particular, McCrea points to the shoehorned location between the airport and the Oshawa Creek as causing safety concerns with erosion along the high banks of the Oshawa Creek. She also pointed out that there was not only a lack of public consultation on the matter, but the city hadn’t obtained a permit from the Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority (CLOCA)

“At a minimum, the permit process should be completed to show the city is following due diligence, obtaining a local expert opinion and demonstrating willingness to ensure watershed concerns, flooding hazards and erosion hazards are being considered,” she states.

McCrea also raised concerns surrounding the lack of communication with residents in the surrounding area in regards to the project.

Following her presentation, Councillor Dan Carter questioned McCrea in regards to the security concerns raised by people she’d spoken with, asking if a better option would be to simply fence the entire area off to keep people out.

“It sounds like there are people that are very concerned, the security concerns are quite serious in this area, that’s what I’m getting from the correspondence that you got from knocking on the doors,” he said.

While McCrea did not agree fencing it off would be the right move, she acknowledged that some of the security concerns were raised by people who had lived in the area for lengthy periods of time and had dealt with issues years ago of youth using the area for parties.

“There are several people who have lived there for well over 40 years and recall 15 years ago when the gangs would walk up Glencairn (Street) take people’s chairs out of their backyards toward the pit parties, take wood, jump in people’s pools, and basically it was a policing problem until they got them out of there,” she said. “I think people, they want access to that natural beautiful space by the creek, but there are a number of significant hazards in there.”

Following that, Councillor Carter addressed a previous meeting where he says the trail project was to be shared and explained to the public. That meeting, a town hall held in December of last year, saw a mass of angry residents turn out to share their concerns about the lack of communication at the airport. It was during this meeting that a presentation was meant to be held, but residents in attendance interrupted and cut it short.

“We felt bad for our staff that night because they did come with full plans and were asked to sit down and the crowd said they didn’t want to know anything about the trail, didn’t want to know anything about the trees that were removed and didn’t want to know anything about the south field,” Carter said. “I felt bad for our arborist because he came well prepared to answer all the questions about the concerns that the community had, and I think it was a missed opportunity.”

The discussion, along with McCrea’s concerns were forwarded to staff to be considered, as well as for the questions to be answered.

Less than a week later, city hall released an update regarding the project, addressing a few of the concerns raised by McCrea. Most notably, staff will now be working through a permit application process with CLOCA.

Staff will also hold consultations with the Oshawa Accessibility Advisory Committee, and implement erosion mitigation measures through the trail.

“The city is committed to the development of an inclusive, healthy and safe community by providing accessible facilities,” the release reads. “To help facilitate the development of the trail, removal of trees will be required as well as access to the trail will be prohibited while work is underway.”

It’s expected to be complete in August.