Thanks to some assistance from The Blue Mountains Fire Department, the Town of The Blue Mountains (TBM) plans to clear their portion of the Georgian Trail this winter.
“Through the fire department, we've been able to secure the use of a Kubota RTV that would be absolutely perfect for the machine packing of the trail,” said TBM CAO Shawn Everitt.
At a recently-held council meeting, TBM council and staff reviewed its options for introducing new winter recreation in the municipality this winter.
Plans outline the development of a series of groomed trails that will include the Georgian Trail and the town-owned Tomahawk Golf Course.
TBM plans to groom the entire length of the Georgian Trail under its control – from Christie Beach Sideroad to Grey Road 21.
The trail is expected to be groomed as a flat-packed trail to allow use by pedestrians and winter activity. The trail will not be open to snowmobiles.
Town staff have budgeted to groom the TBM-maintained portion of the trail from “tip-to-tail” once a day for 105 days.
“We understand that there are going to be some days where it doesn't need to be done. We also understand that when I say 105 days, depending on what the weather does, there may be 60 days,” Everitt said.
Staff are anticipating the cost of maintaining this stretch of the Georgian Trail for the winter months to be $26,800.
“Our biggest areas of focus would be everywhere that the Georgian Trail crosses the road,” Everitt continued. “We would have to really do some good work of maintaining the windrows and snow banks just so people aren't at risk of going down the snow bank and onto the roadway.”
Staff anticipate it will take five hours a day to maintain the length of the trail.
“We're also identifying that we will be setting up a policy for inspections of the trail, at least once per week,” he added, noting that TBM will be required to hire two part-time seasonal workers for the job.
TBM staff say they also reached out to Collingwood and Meaford regarding grooming their sections of the Georgian Trail.
At the time of the council meeting, Collingwood had not provided a response and Meaford was not interested in this extension of operations.
While the Georgian Trail will be groom to a flat-packed trail, the Tomahawk golf course will offer specialized trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
“The intent on the Georgian Trail would be to not have the set track, but the cross-country set tracks as well as the snowshoeing trails, will be set side-by-side at the Tomahawk location,” added Ryan Gibbons, director of community services for TBM.
The trails will be groomed side-by-side and signs will be posted to guide users. The trails will also be open for walking if there is a lack of snow.
“This makes our investment in Tomahawk a little more valuable because now we're using it year-round,” said TBM Deputy Mayor Rob Potter.
TBM also plans to install paid parking at Tomahawk. The parking charge will be for non-residents only at the rate of $5 per hour for a maximum of four hours a day.
Staff estimate the cost of operating Tomahawk through the winter months at $12,600.
TBM is also planning additional seasonal snow removal and parking lot maintenance at existing rural trail locations – at Kolapore Uplands, the parking lot at Grey Road 2 and 10th line will be cleared and additional shoulder length will be maintained at Loree Forest.