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Higher than hoped tenders put kink in Millennium Trail progress

Story by Sharon Harrison
Facing much higher than anticipated tenders for the work, the PEC Trails Committee is anxious to solve challenges and get the Millennium Trail upgrades under way as soon as possible.

Having raised around $126,000, and with municipality having committed $370,000 toward the upgrade of the entire trail, shovels in the ground are delayed while the County, and the committee sorts out details.

The PEC Trails Committee is a citizen group dedicated to promoting the 46-kilometre Millennium Trail network — known as ‘a linear park for all the County — which begins in Carrying Place and wends its way through Bloomfield, Wellington, Consecon and Picton.

At the PEC Trails Committee public meeting Wednesday, Patrick Maloney, chair, provided an update on where things stand with regards to tenders and the wetlands specifically. Regular public meetings have been held in Picton, Bloomfield, Hillier and Wellington.

“It’s interesting as we move the meetings along in the different communities as we are starting to see different people,” said Maloney.

Barry Davidson, of Twelve Trees Development and other County projects, introduced himself at Wellington’s meeting.

“I started the Millennium Trail with the Rotary club here in Wellington and I am interested in doing the whole thing,” to which Vincent de Tourdonnet replied, “and which we are very pleased about.”

“It’s really been fun; great people committed to raising a bunch of money that was beyond my wildest [dreams]”, said Maloney. “The best way to get involved in the community is to get involved in the community. Jump in with both feet and meet people.”

Maloney provided an update on the tenders.

“As far as the tenders go, we are in the process right now of waiting for the County to make a decision. The last set of tenders that went out were received; the bids were in the $30,000 per kilometre range with three bidders in that range with the bottom bidder at about $7,500 per kilometre range. The lower bidder has been disqualified, mainly because they didn’t meet the specifications as they should have.”

“They [the County] are looking at selecting one of the top players, but they are looking at an alternative because at $30,000 for the top bid, I think they were only accepting $26,000. It still puts the budget, which was originally around $450,000, to close to a million dollars, and to a certain extent is way out of line. So we have asked them to go back to see what they can do as far as possibly taking it as a project.”

“Davidson has offered his services to manage the project having been the person that oversaw the Wellington section of trail that was built. So they are crunching some numbers to put that together to see if they can come up with an alternative option at a much cheaper cost to do it with Davidson overseeing some of the contractors who are currently in the County’s fleet of working partners.”

Davidson noted that the cost to upgrade the Wellington section of trail at the time was $7,000 per kilometre using four inches of limestone. The current plan calls for six inches of limestone which Davidson noted as being incremental change.

“I guess what happens is to explain that difference sometimes is the only people willing to take on the job are willing to take it on for $30,000 [per kilometre]. We talked to a couple vendors who said they would apply, but they are busy and could have done it for a lot cheaper. You get caught in this kind of bind. You put a tender out and you get what you get and then you have to deal with it,” said Maloney.

“So we are in the process of dealing with it right now and trying to come up with solution. We have basically said that we cannot in all conscious accept that cost and really, it’s a tough thing to go through. We have been waiting to get that first shovel in the ground. We have estimated it should be around $9,000 to $13,000 per kilometre.

All the contractors who have submitted tenders are local to Prince Edward County. A lot of contractors, he said, haven’t done trails before.

“It’s a brand new thing and it’s a difficult thing and there are professionals out there, but they are so busy they can’t talk to anybody on it.”

The trail upgrades and tenders include just resurfacing the trail at this time and not the other projects such as addressing the wetlands issue.

“It would start where the Wellington project ended off, where the trail crosses 33 out here, three or four kilometres, and going east to connect up to Bloomfield to Picton, and perhaps around Picton to 49,” said Davidson.

Currently, the municipality is looking to provide a cost estimate using its resources and some of equipment, with Davidson supervising the project.

“That’s where we are sitting right now, so its fingers crossed and hopefully we’ll get a good resolution,” said Maloney. “We are so close.”

The meeting moved to discussing wetlands. “What happens with the rest of the trail is definitely going to define what happens with the wetlands as the next step,” said Maloney.

The meeting discussed seasonal flooding with input from Amy Bodman (also of Prince Edward County Field Naturalists) who mentioned damage from ATVs in some sections of the trail, beaver damage as well as high water levels. The two sections of wetlands are about three kilometres in total length.

One member asked what the restrictions are on motorized vehicles on the trail.

“There are two bylaws, but fundamentally, ATVs are allowed,” said Maloney. “Farm vehicles, strictly tractors, but dirt bikes are not allowed, that’s my understanding.” “There’s a perception, because the trail hasn’t had anything done to it in so long, everyone has been using it.”

“When the bylaw went in, ATVs looked like this [indicating smaller] and now 10 or 15 years later, ATVs have gotten bigger, wider, faster , so there’s a concern over that,” said Maloney.

The issue of speed limits were also discussed. Currently, limits are set to a maximum of 20 km/h within the confines of hamlets and villages and 50 km/h in the open parts of the trail. Bodman noted that an ATV can be driven by anyone over the age of 12.

“Everything that we have done with this committee has been about making it a multi-use trail which includes ATVs because that’s what the bylaws allow and that’s been the intention all the way along, so every recommendation we have made has been based on that,” said Bodman.

“Everyone can use it; there are cyclists, walkers, birders, ATVs and I have to say most ATVers are completely very decent and very good.”

“It’s been seen as an ATV trail for many years, since the late-80s, so that’s a big shift,“ said Bodman.

He also addressed the installation of eco passages in the wetlands which the County has agreed to put in. The eco passages will allow animals to cross underneath.

“The big concern that we’ve had is that right now there is a 50 km/h speed limit through the wetlands and you have a lot of animals getting hit when they cross over the wetlands especially with the flooding and there are many endangered species in these wetlands,” said Bodman. “The problem with Slab Creek wetland is that the flooding is so long that there’s no easy solution, so we’re looking into different possibilities. We are looking for new kinds of solutions.”

“We see the wetlands as a very important feature of the trail too as they are really quite extraordinary,” said Bodman. “That will be a real draw for the trail as the nature is amazing; it’s one of the more beautiful parts of the trail.”

“I don’t think we will see huge growth in ATVs once the trail is done. We will see a huge growth in walking, cycling, running and all the things that are not fun to do right now, “ said Maloney.

Proper signage along the trail was also discussed.

“We have sold 46 of 48 kilometre signs for $1,000 a pop and they are double-sided and we are going to have people sponsoring it. Every kilometre there will be a sign,” said Maloney. “The design is going to be a stylized train sign, but nothing is yet finalized. We are also hoping to include a logo for The Friends of the Millennium Trail.”

Long-term custodianship of the trail, once the upgrades are completed, was briefly mentioned but deferred to another meeting.

Concerns over indiscriminate brushing were also discussed.

“It’s a green corridor, it’s a linear park, and if the brushing is too extreme, then it becomes a wasteland,” said de Tourdonnet. “Right now there are parts of it you can’t even walk on, particularly between Bloomfield and Wellington.”

In response to a member question, Bodman said that brushing was done mostly to ensure good sight lines as well as for the snowmobiles.

Bodman noted that “grinding” which involves the cutting of trees and branches rather than just grass and vegetation is destructive and spreads invasive species.

“We hope it all moves forward and we have a date to put shovels in the ground,” said Maloney.

Maloney noted that the mailing list for the Millennium Trail is more than 525 people with donors, etc.

“There’s a huge interest in what we’re doing.”

For those who wish to get involved in the upgrades project or to join the PEC Trails Committee, visit pectrails.ca or join the Millennium Trail-Prince Edward County Facebook public group: facebook.com/groups/637557313073620.

The next public meeting is to be held on Wednesday, Aug. 15 in Bloomfield.

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  1. Bob Harvey says:

    As an avid off-roader I must comment on the use of the trail. It’s been two years since I drove the full length of the trail. It truly is a gem if used by all who might want to use it. The thing that did bother me was the “looks” and a “walking stick shaking” I endured going past Wellington. Three different old farts around Wellington really think they get the trail for walkers only. I’m a senior also. I slow down when meeting anyone. I shut my machine off when meeting horses and riders. What’s with staring someone down or giving the hairy eye ball just because you dont like a machine driving on “your” trail. Please place signs around Wellington saying “shared trail please be courtious to all.

  2. Vincent says:

    I understand that the surface is currently fine for some users. I’ve heard some ATV riders say they prefer it rough, so you can’t please everyone!

    The reason the Wellington section was upgraded by Barry Davidson and the Rotary was partly to allow anyone who chooses to ride bicycles on it. Currently, it’s rough going in places even with a mountain bike. The added benefit that it’s made more accessible for wheelchairs or other mobility devices. We’re none of us getting younger, so the long-term usability for all users matters. Also, there are several sections of the trail that are currently so rough, that some people don’t feel comfortable even walking on them.

    And cycling is booming in popularity as recreation, and as a way of getting around, with communities nearby, including Belleville, investing in new bike paths. I know people who commute by bike between Picton and Bloomfield, and currently have to do so on the roads. The upgrade will allow them to commute on the trail.

    These are some of the kinds of users who will be served by the upgrade, and those who like it the way it is, well let’s hope they won’t be negatively impacted.

  3. Cheryl Anderson says:

    I couldn’t agree more. Signage is a good idea, but in the two wetland areas they should include information about the importance of the wetland areas and species at risk that inhabit them. The trail across the top of Wellington is very good and accessible. I do not think we need a totally accessible trail for the whole length.

  4. Todd says:

    What Rotary and other service clubs have done around the Wellington area of the trail is wonderful, but honestly it is not needed for the whole trail. I have walked, rode and skied the trail for years and it is fine the way it is. Is it bumpy? yup. A bit overgrown in places? yup. That is part of it’s charm. It’s not an urban walkway, it’s a rural path through The County. Maintain the trail as is, and save the money for other more pressing issues.

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