North Huron staff investigating G2G-downtown Blyth connection
BY DENNY SCOTT
Connecting the Goderich-to-Guelph (G2G) Rail Trail to Blyth’s downtown continues to be a hot topic at the Blyth Business Improvement Area (BIA) meetings, and members are glad that things are moving forward.
During the BIA’s May 26 meeting, Chair David Sparling said he had recently met with North Huron staff because any connectivity solutions are going to require municipal involvement.
“We have to try and get people downtown without going on the highway,” he said.
After his introductory meeting, he said he felt the “ball was moving”, but some BIA executive members were concerned with that.
Cat O’Donnell, who runs The Wonky Frog, wanted assurances that the plan didn’t involve the back alleyway west of Queen Street.
Sparling said there were no definitive options yet, saying the plan was still very much “in the air.”
Demetri Makrakos, North Huron’s recently-hired Economic Development Officer, said there were “four or five” options, and that public input would be an important part of deciding which one moves forward.
Sparling said there were six potential routes, but he didn’t want to discuss them in depth until municipal staff weighed in on them.
O’Donnell said there had been actions taken that seemed to support the idea of using the back alley, which led to negative feedback from residents.
“A survey was done, and I don’t recall us ever okaying a survey to be done on private properties,” she said.
The land in question is currently not private, but an unopened road allowance owned by North Huron.
Sparling explained that those surveys were completed free of charge by Doug Culbert Ltd. who provides that service at no cost for the G2G
He said the bottom line on the discussion was that he didn’t “want to get into the weeds every meeting” regarding the issue, saying that, until there was feedback provided by North Huron, merchants and neighbours, a solution wouldn’t be presented.
Gerrit Sepers of BRØD Bread & Pastry asked if there was anything that the BIA could do in the interim, noting that signage, kiosks and studies, which had been suggested earlier in the meeting, take time and that businesses needed to attract trail users now.
Sparling said any actions taken now would mean the BIA would have to spend money twice. He said the BIA could talk about the issue “forever”, but instead, a process needed to begin so the project could be pushed ahead.
“This is huge for our community,” he said. “We have to nail it.”
Sepers agreed, saying that his business has gone down 15 per cent in recent weeks and that the trail users need to be brought downtown as soon as possible.
Earlier in the meeting, Denise Lockie, Community Engagement Co-ordinator for North Huron, explained that she had applied for a $64,100 grant for upgrades to signage on the G2G.
She explained that the grant, provided through Regional Tourism Organization 4 (RTO4), would help to enhance the trail, which has seen significant use over the last several years.
The application, if approved, could see signage and kiosks built in three locations on the trail: near the Memorial Garden, at the trailhead where it crosses Queen Street and where signage already exists for Tim Hortons and the Ultramar gas bar west of the Queen Street trailhead.