• Hunter Cresswell

Parking promise pulverized?

‘No’ says Chelsea mayor

By Hunter Cresswell

A Mill Road man said he feels burned by the municipality of Chelsea after learning of the possibility of parking spots for community trail users being built near his home.

“If you put a parking lot and washroom, it will fundamentally change our neighbourhood,” Mill Road resident Paul Elter said in a phone interview last week.

A flower garden, a book-exchange box and four parking spaces mark the community trail’s intersection with Chemin Gleneagle in Chelsea. More of these intersections are coming to municipal roads intersected by the trail. Hunter Cresswell photo

Elter and his neighbours have been fighting the prospect of a parking lot on their road even before the rails were ripped up in favour of creating a community trail along the defunct rail corridor.

Over two years ago, Elter said he and his neighbours sat down with Mayor Caryl Green and municipal staff about plans to build a parking lot and washrooms at the end of Mill Road.

“At that point she promised – she actually said it to all of us – that there would not be a parking lot there and definitely not a washroom,” Elter recalled.

When he caught wind of this issue again earlier this year, he reached out to Green who, he said, assured him that she and the council would do everything to make sure it doesn’t happen.

“Now she has promised it twice that it would not happen,” an exasperated Elter said.

But Green disagreed that she promised what he’s saying she promised.

“That was only in the context when we were discussing scenarios for a project for field hockey,” she said. “I think it was out of context to say there was a ‘promise.’”

To be fair to the municipality, the location of the lot and washroom discussed two years ago is different from the planned trail intersection over Mill Road.

She added that it’s always been the council’s intention to provide parking access along public roads in order to make the trail accessible for disabled people and emergency responders.

“I think we have to be careful and look at the whole picture,” Green cautioned.

Ward 3 councillor Greg McGuire, in a phone interview last week, explained the municipality is looking at about six places where the trail intersects with municipal roads up and down the municipality. Intersections, like the one at Chemin Gleneagle built in November that features four parking spots, will vary in design based on the availability of space. No further designs have been completed, but should be finished and released this summer with consultations for each intersection to be announced in the fall or winter.

Since the Mill Road intersection is central in location, has a lot of space and is the site of the old Chelsea train station, a more robust intersection design may be presented there, though plans aren’t finalized.

“It would be nice if we could celebrate the history and heritage of the area,” McGuire said.

He said that most intersections have space for two to possibly six parking spots, so people who don’t live within walking or biking distance from the trail can still enjoy it.

“The people who live in Meech Lake, Kingsmere and Hollow Glen are also part of the community and they deserve access,” he added.

But Elter said he isn’t against people in the community using the trail — he said he likes that. Rather, he said he is worried that more access to the trail for more people could mean more trail, waterfront and parking space misuse, similar to the activity taking place along the waterfront at ‘High Rock’ near Church Road, which led to MRC Police recently making the longtime, popular river spot off-limits.

“It’s like the yellow brick road right up to High Rock. Now you’re giving them a parking lot?” Elter said.

In his mind, a good compromise would be moving the train station building to the parking lot of the CLSC. That would give people a structure in which to change in and out of their swim or ski gear depending on the season, a place to park without building more spots and access to the trail, since there’s a small path leading to the trail from the CLSC building. But Elter said he isn’t holding his breath about this suggestion.

“I am never even hopeful. I don’t hold my breath anymore; [if I did], I’d asphyxiate,” he added.

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