Land Trust objects to trails near wetlands
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | Feb. 7, 2019|
The Haliburton Highlands Land Trust (HHLT) told Minden Hills council it’s not against the development of snowmobile trails in the township but is concerned about them near wetlands.
The Haliburton County Snowmobile Association (HCSA) is seeking approval to build approximately seven kilometres of trails in the township in future.
Land Trust chair Mary Lou Gertsl and secretary Sheila Ziman spoke at council’s Jan. 24 council meeting.
Gertsl emphasized the Trust is not against development but believes a healthy economy and a healthy environment go hand-in-hand. She said a balanced approach is needed and the Trust is happy to work to find a solution with all interested parties.
Ziman said the proposed trails would impact the Fred and Pearl Barry Wetland, that was donated to the Trust.
“The proposed new snowmobile/ATV trail follows the road allowance that borders the Barry Wetland on its northern edge and eastern corner,” she said. “If we do not protect the property and the land use changes we are subject to a fine of 50 per cent of the fair market value of the property.”
Although she conceded the wetland is unevaluated, the Trust has documented Blanding’s Turtles, which are a threatened species. They’re worried about a plan to put gravel on the trail, and the loss of wetland and habitat for threatened species. In fact, the gravel will attract turtles, putting them at risk, she said. They cited concerns about plans to put in four culverts, and the prospect of changing the natural flow of water. They’re also worried about removal of small trees and stumps. Other concerns are vehicles trespassing on the wetland, if for example a tree came down and had to be removed.
Ziman concluded that, “the objection is not to the trail, but how and where it is built. We want to find a solution that will keep riders safe as well as maintaining the integrity of the wetland. We need to safeguard its important functions as wildlife habitat, carbon sink and flood attenuation.”
She said the HCSA and the township have an opportunity to show leadership in protecting wetlands and building environmentally-sustainable trails.
Mayor Brent Devolin told Ziman, “We’re not in a hurry. We’re going to do this right.”
He said the township will seek answers from the HCSA on all concerns raised to date and in future and staff are canvassing as many opinions as possible before coming back to council with a final report. He said council would then make a decision based on facts.
The HCSA’s John Enright added in an email, “this project is very long term, costly and not on our immediate ‘to do’ list, probably a few years out. We respect the views of the Land Trust and will work with them, the MNRF, Minden Hills, and the HATV (Haliburton ATV Association) before anything happens.”
LISA GERVAIS is the editor for The Highlander.