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South River creating walking trail to Tom Thomson Park entrance

South River clerk administrator Don McArthur says this makes it safer for people to walk to the park
Village of South River clerk administrator Don McArthur standing where the Ottawa Avenue sidewalk ends. The brush and trees behind McArthur will be cleared, and a three-metre wide hard-packed surface will be created to form a walking trail to the entrance of Tom Thomson Park. The trail will be 650 metres long and is expected to be open later this year. The trail is being developed to enhance pedestrian safety along Ottawa Avenue which is in rough shape near the park area and sees a lot of motor vehicle traffic.

By late summer or early fall, South River residents should have a walking trail that takes them to the entrance of Tom Thomson Park and avoids the pitfalls of walking to the park from Ottawa Avenue.

The 650-metre trail will cut through brush and trees and run parallel to Ottawa Avenue.

It will start where the sidewalk ends on Ottawa Avenue and emerge right across from the park entrance.

Village of South River clerk administrator Don McArthur says this makes it safer for people to walk to the park.

McArthur says there are no issues until the sidewalk on Ottawa Avenue ends.

From that point onward to the park, pedestrians have to deal with an uneven road surface; the shoulders are often filled with water, and the area is not lit for night-time use.

McArthur says to put it mildly, Ottawa Avenue in this area is in “rough shape.”

McArthur adds the road is heavily used because “it’s an access point to our industrial area with big trucks.”

“People travelling through South River also use it, and it’s how people get to Algonquin Park,” he said.

McArthur says the road is fine if there is only one person walking and one motor vehicle on the street.

“But the minute there are two vehicles, you need to get out of the way,” he said.

McArthur says although there have been no accidents on that part of Ottawa, he has walked along that stretch and admits to being intimidated when coping with motor vehicles.

The rough section of Ottawa Avenue is designated to be upgraded at some point, but in the meantime the town council wants to improve pedestrian access to the park with the walking trail.

The design work has been awarded to EXP: Engineering, Architecture, Design and Consulting of North Bay at a cost of $35,000, and the final budget will be set once that is completed.

EXP could have preliminary designs in council’s hands during April, and McArthur says the village may ask for public feedback on those early designs.

Additionally, McArthur says the village will use the EXP drawings as a template for designing future walking trails “so we don’t have to go back and do it all over again.”

Once the brush and trees are cleared where needed, the trail will be three metres wide.

McArthur says it will be a hard-packed surface that can be used by pedestrians, joggers and cyclists.

“So in addition to being a huge safety improvement, I think it will encourage more people to access the park and promote fitness,” he said.

The completed trail can be used year-round because it will be cleared of snow during the winter.

McArthur says the goal is to add signage and lighting for night-time use and maybe also a bench.

Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.