Eganville – The ongoing issue of access to cottages and homes on Tranquility Bay was again before Bonnechere Valley council but with initial estimates coming in at almost $170,000 to widen the railbed and make it a new access route, this is just one of the hurdles to the plan.
“If we do it for you, we will have to do it for all the private roads,” cautioned Mayor Jennifer Murphy last Tuesday at a committee meeting of council. “We do not have the resources to do that.”
A delegation of property owners from Tranquility Bay Road was at council addressing the issue of access to their Golden Lake properties. Spokesperson Barry O’Reilly, who noted he was in a near fatal accident five years ago near Wilber Lake, said having access by first responders at that time was what saved his life. He said he was concerned about what would happen if there was an incident on Tranquility Bay and first responders could not get down the steep hill or find another way to reach the cottage or home.
“The whole idea of providing access is if something happens, it will save lives,” he said.
He noted Mayor Murphy has also stated in the past the access of first responders to an emergency is of extreme concern and priority for her.
Council has been meeting with successive delegations from Tranquility Bay for some time. The issue of access became of greater concern a few years ago when access from Pikwakanagan was cut off when a gate was installed on what was the old railway bed and is now a road in Pikwakanagan. Many of the cottagers on Tranquility Bay had been using that road as a way of reaching their property instead of going down the very steep and narrow Tranquility Bay Road which goes down from Hoffman Road.
Council was broached several years ago about using the old railway bed instead for access which would come out on Zadow Road. One issue with using the old railway bed going towards Zadow is the railway bed is very narrow, going by Golden Lake. The railway bed, which is owned by Bonnechere Valley, has also been leased to both the ATV and snowmobile clubs and they use it and maintain it as a trail.
The proposal to use the railway bed as a road meant there would have to be some upgrades and work done on the road and Works Supervisor Jason Zohr presented an estimate of $169,950 to widen the railway bed, which included tree cutting, stump removal, ditching, culvert installation, “B” gravel and “A” gravel with man hours and machine hours.
Mr. O’Reilly said with 14 property owners on Tranquility Bay, the almost $170,000 estimate was cost prohibitive. “The question I have is how would the distribution of that be spread out?” he asked. “Could council absorb all the cost? 75 percent of the cost?”
Councillor Jack Roesner said he was concerned what kind of precedent it would set if the township contributed to the cost.
“This is opening up the door to private roads,” he said.
In the past a prior council had rejected a proposal for assistance on private road maintenance. Coun. Roesner cautioned if the township helps this private road, there will be more requests.
“You are going to have every private road in the township coming,” he said.
The councillor later noted having some turnouts on the railway bed could be an option instead of widening the whole bed so cars could pull over if they meet someone else on the road.
“It could be done at a reasonable cost,” he said.
Mayor Murphy acknowledged the idea of using the old railway bed as a new point of access would be something to discuss, but she noted they must speak with the snowmobile and ATV club first.
Mr. Zohr said the snowmobile trail needs to be wide enough for them to get through and if there are cars going through as well, this could be an issue.
“It is a dangerous situation to a vehicle going down there if the groomer can’t get through,” he said.
Mr. O’Reilly told council he is very concerned about access to Tranquility Bay as are the other property owners. In wintertime it is especially challenging.
“We know the gate (at Pikwakanagan) has been closed numerous times,” he said. “The option to come down the hill is not doable.”
Mayor Murphy said she is aware there are many people who want to live on Tranquility Bay permanently.
“If this is going to be permanent homes, it is a lot different than a cottage road,” she said.
“We have permanent residents on Tranquility Bay right now,” he noted.
The residents contribute to the community, he stressed, and having no idea of how accessible their properties are is a huge concern. Often when they are coming to their cottage or home, they call a neighbour first to see if the gate is open or closed, or to see if the hill is impassible because of snow or ice, he said.
“We have no idea which road to take when we leave our home to get to the door,” he said.
Councillor Brent Patrick asked how property owners accessed their property when cottages were first built on Tranquility Bay. Mr. O’Reilly said it was through the road allowance at the top of the hill.
When asked about the agreement with the snowmobile and ATV club, CAO Annette Gilchrist said it is in perpetuity, but added it could be altered if that decision was made.
Council agreed the next step would be a discussion between the snowmobile and ATV clubs and the Tranquility Bay property owners to see if the abandoned railway bed could be used by vehicles to access their properties. Mr. Zohr will facilitate the meeting.
“Moving forward to form a timeline perspective, what are we talking?” asked Mr. O’Reilly.
“It depends on your proposal with Bonn Trae (the snowmobile club),” Councillor Tim Schison said.
With a municipal election coming this fall, there was also concern from the delegation about having a decision made quickly. However, Ms. Gilchrist said even in a lame duck situation some decisions could be made.
Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader