By Mike Williscraft
(Editor’s Note: The woodlot issue will come up this Wednesday, Aug. 16 at the Grimsby Public Works Committee meeting, set to start at 4:30 p.m. at town hall – not at the Town’s Planning Committee which was incorrectly published in the Aug. 10 NewsNow print edition)
The long-debated issue of survival for the old growth Irish woodlot on Hunter Road rises, yet again, at next Wednesday’s Grimsby Public Works Committee meeting.
The matter has been thought decided and dead in favour of keeping the “most significant woodlot on the Lake Ontario Plain in Niagara” from being split by a Livingston Avenue extension, says environmentalist Bruce MacKenzie.
When the Greenbelt Review was rolled out this spring and all lands remained frozen, woodlot proponents believed that was the end of the discussion.
Yet, when a group of residents who have been watching the matter for years attended an open house for Niagara Region’s Transportation Master Plan, they were shocked to not only see the extension still up for consideration, but noted that it was built into the proposed maps used at the open house as a completed project.
MacKenzie said regional officials were asked about this and he was told by senior staff the road was to go ahead.
“This was seen as a back-door attempt by the Region to get the extension approved before any EA took place,” said MacKenzie.
“The citizens of Grimsby were not told that this was being introduced into the Master Plan. It was being kept quiet.”
With this new information, a delegation of proponents to save the woodlot attended the Region’s May 17 Transportation Steering Committee meeting with a 1,000-plus signature petition. Reg. Coun. Tony Quirk also spoke in favour of deleting the extension from the Master Plan. This precipitated the committee voting unanimously to remove the Livingston extension from the Master Plan.
The decision needed to be confirmed by the Region’s Public Works Committee.
At that subsequent meeting, Grimsby Mayor got the matter referred back to Grimsby council after speaking in favour of putting the extension through.
“We do not understand why Mayor Bentley wants the Region to spend $8.5 million or more on a road that is totally within the Greenbelt that cannot lead to further development,” said MacKenzie.
Not only is MacKenzie concerned with the issue being prolonged since it seemed decided already, but the manner in which it has hung around also sounded alarms, he said.
“The Region cancelled the Envinronmental Assessment and then tried to slide the approval for the road in with the Transportation Master Plan. Notice was not given to the residents of Grimsby that this was being attempted,” noted MacKenzien.
“Council has not taken a position on this subject yet, as it has been a regional project. Ald. Dave Wilson did report to the Town Council about the proceedings of the Transportation Steering Committee motion but as the Region had not formally been presented with a letter from the Town, the discussion was put off to Town Council.”
MacKenzie said he hoped Grimsby’s elected officials see fit to remove this Livingston extension from consideration once and for all.
“We are hoping that Public Works on Aug. 16, and subsequently at the Town Council on Aug. 21, council will decide to tell the Region to remove the road extension from the Region’s Transportation Master Plan and consider a year round multi-use trail along the unopen road right-of-way between Casablanca and the intersection of Oaks Road and Main Street West,” said MacKenzie.
“For the last three years the proposed extension of Livingston west of Casablanca has been an unnecessary distraction in the community. We are hoping that moving away from the idea of a major road to a recreational trail will unite the town.”
Are the days of Grimsby’s Hunter Road woodlot numbered? Next week’s Public Works Committee meeting will tell the tale. Ron Lane – Photo