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Accessible trail improvements on a path to approval despite neighbourhood resistance

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Longstanding opposition to improving a trail that enters an expensive neighbourhood in northwest London, Ont. may have met its match— provincial accessibility laws.

On Wednesday, the Planning and Environment Committee (PEC) discussed a staff report that recommends the pathway from Gloucester Road into the Medway Valley Heritage Environmentally Significant Area be upgraded from a Level 1 Trail to a Level 2 Trail.

Redevelopment of the steep, narrow, and uneven pathway would require a firm gravel surface up to two metres wide.

“It means better walking for everybody who accesses the trail, not just people with disabilities,” explained accessibility advocate Jacqueline Madden, who first became involved in the project in 2012. “It still may not be suitable for someone with a wheelchair, it’s a pretty steep grade, but certainly more people would be able to use it if it’s a Level 2 [trail].”

In 2021, a more accessible trail was put on hold when council approved the Medway Valley’s Conservation Master Plan.

Subsequent environmental studies recommend installing a 250-metre gravel pathway to ensure compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

A map showing the location of the proposed trail enhancement. (Source: City of London)

The upgrades could cost between $50,000 and 75,000.

“It got stalled because there was a lot of backlash from the neighbourhood at the time,” explained Madden. “So they’ve gone back and done all the ecological studies.”

However, neighbours told the PEC meeting that upgrading the difficult-to-find trail might lead to more traffic on their isolated street of executive-style homes.

Others suggested the future of an unopened road allowance on nearby Green Acres Drive should be determined before a decision is made to upgrade the trail.

“I can support the Level 2 Trail piece, it is the connection through that is a concern to me and where it is disrupting long-time residents,” said Deputy Mayor Shawn Lewis.

The planning committee unanimously (4-0) recommended the trail upgrade.

Council will make a final decision on March 5.

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