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Grey County wants to add or improve nearly 400 km of cycling routes in 10 years

'It is a very ambitious plan,' says Bryan Plumstead, manager of tourism for Grey County
Two cyclists finish a gravel race in the Sea Otter Canada event at Blue Mountain. The cycling event is one of many that uses Grey County roads for the race routes. Erika Engel/CollingwoodToday

Over the next 10 years, Grey County would like to implement 373.5 km of new cycling routes across the county.

“The vision for our plan is really to identify a complete and continuous connected network of high-quality cycling and trail routes,” said Bryan Plumstead, manager of tourism for Grey County. “This will accommodate all ages and abilities and opportunities to enjoy the county’s natural landscape in a safe and enjoyable way all year 'round.”

The Grey County Cycling and Trails Master Plan was presented to county council on Feb. 27, which opened a 30-day consultation period that is set to end on April 3.

“This is an extensive master plan that targets all areas of cycling and the club members are very supportive of this initiative,” says Noelle Wansbrough, president of the Collingwood Cycling Club. “Cycling safety is our primary objective as a club, so the paved shoulder policy outlined in the plan is very promising. As far as the trail system, [the plan] has clearly identified key improvements, such as connectivity and signage, which is the common complaint we get from members.”

In 2018, the county received $530,552 from the province of Ontario’s Municipal Commuter Cycling Program to develop a cycling and trails master plan, implement 22 km of paved shoulders on country roads and purchase five bike counters to track trail traffic.

The master plan project was initiated after some of the county’s past planning projects outlined a need for an overarching document to identify ways cycling and trails could be enhanced.

“This plan is built on a number of other plans, including the provincial cycling strategy, which came to fruition in 2014, and that included initiatives like developing safer communities, improving cycling infrastructure and promoting tourism,” Plumstead said.

He was also quick to point out that the master plan is not a schedule of planned projects but more of long-range blueprint that the county and its nine municipal partners can harness to create a connected and comprehensive cycling system.

“What you have before you is the overall vision of what could be implemented and then what people [and partner municipalities] decide to implement and how it is done, are details that will come back to council in the final report,” explained Grey County CAO, Kim Wingrove.

Creating the plan was a lengthy process that included cataloguing the current routes and trails, evaluating gaps and possible route solutions, field investigations, stakeholder and public consultations.

The finished product provides several resources for planning, design and implementation of the cycling and trail system. Considerations include lane widths, trail crossings, signage, road surface conditions, risk management and liability.

“The project’s use of Strava heatmaps to identify the key routes for cyclists is a very effective way to highlight areas that may require resurfacing or improved shoulders, such as Grey Road 19, 119 and Frogs Hollow Road,” added Wansbrough.

The master plan outlines a long term proposed network, involving 836 km of proposed facilities: 304 km paved shoulders; 459 km of signed routes; 1.7 km of off-road trails; 5.3 km of edge lines; 4.8 km of bike lanes; 60.5 km of buffered paved shoulders; and 1.4 km of in-boulevard pathways.

“A lot of those are on county roads, which forms the basis of the network. It is a very ambitious plan,” Plumstead said. “The philosophy is really to focus on the next 10 years.”

The master plan suggests establishing a number of capital projects from 2020 to 2029 that would see 373.5 kms of the proposed 836 kms of facilities implemented at a cost of $3.5 million.

“This will be reviewed on an annual basis with the county’s plans and partner municipality plans as well,” Plumstead added.

A public meeting regarding the county’s cycling and trails master plan will be held on March 12, beginning at 11AM at the Grey County Administration Building in Owen Sound. Public feedback will also be accepted until April 3. For more information, visit the county website.

Following the public consultation period a final plan will be brought back to county council with recommendations for implementation.

“This 140-page working document is very extensive and covers all the key areas that, if implemented, would create a very safe and enjoyable cycling experience for all types of cyclists,” Wansbrough said.

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Jennifer Golletz

About the Author: Jennifer Golletz

Jennifer Golletz covers civic matters under the Local Journalism Initative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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