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RUSSELL WANGERSKY: The new Kelly’s Brook path in St.John's? Not, it seems, near the water

The upgraded Kelly’s Brook trail won’t include this part of Rennies River any more.
The upgraded Kelly’s Brook trail won’t include this part of Rennies River any more.

It’s fascinating to watch — but boy, you have to watch closely, because things can change dramatically.

And they have.

The planned Kelly’s Brook Shared-Use Path — conceptually launched as being a paved, three-metre wide walking, biking and accessible core trailway for the city, pending public input — is now a lot different. And the changes likely aren’t done yet.

Not much was made of the changes, but they do radically change the plan: essentially, the Kelly’s Brook multi-use trail will no longer actually run along any above-ground portion of Kelly’s Brook (the brook is buried underground for much of its length), or along Rennies River at all.

The part of the trail that was to be away from roadsides now ends at Carpasian Road — the two sections of trail along the edge of Kelly’s Brook and along Rennies River that were going to be part of the combined use trail now won’t be widened, paved or have lighting installed.

Instead, the multi-use trail will move to “a roadside alignment east of Carpasian Road,” the city says. “This new routing comes with significant obstacles … Because of these obstacles, engaging with property owners and residents along these segments of Empire Avenue is critical to moving this plan forward,” the city says on its public engagement site.

Moving the trail to the Empire Avenue road corridor certainly does come with its own problems: between Carpasian Road and Rennies Mill Road, Empire is fairly open, but the multi-use trail would then cross Rennies Mill Road at a sharp curve with really bad sightlines, and, frankly, regularly-speeding traffic.

But the part of Empire Avenue that’s east of Rennies Mill Road is a street with on-street parking on one side. The other side has an extremely narrow sidewalk with utilities poles inset in the sidewalk, and, for at least part of the street, house fronts that are set almost on top of the sidewalk. In other words, not very much room to play with. (At least in the first configuration, the proposed trail would have likely cost some Winter Avenue residents the bottom edge of their back yards.)

It’s important to point out, by the way, that a different city problem is part of the reason the trail is leaving the edge of Rennies River — flood risks from the river itself. The city’s in the midst of the permitting process for a flood mitigation berm along that stretch of the river to stop flooding from increased rainfall, and as the city puts it, “Based on the impacts a combined berm and widened trail would have in this segment, Council has revised the plan for this project ….”

So where are we? Midway through a process that’s likely to satisfy no one. Segments of the trail will be contiguous, widened and surfaced for multiple uses, but it seems like it’s unlikely to play the role of a core route that the plan originally envisioned.

So where are we? Midway through a process that’s likely to satisfy no one. 

The city extended its public engagement process for the current route to Feb. 28 — yesterday — most likely to allow for input on the change that now puts the multi-use trail on or alongside the roadway for a significant portion of its route.

The engagement is done — and the city’s moving on to next steps.

So, if this plan, and the plan further down the road to follow the Bike St. John’s Master Plan and turn two other trails in the city (the Rennies River trail and the Virginia River trail) into widened, paved multiuse trails have any impact on you, make sure you pay attention: things have away of changing.

Is it for the better?

That depends, I guess, on your viewpoint.

Russell Wangersky’s column appears in SaltWire newspapers and websites across Atlantic Canada.


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