By: Mike Anderson
Infrastructure Ontario, the provincial agency that owns the Sutton Hill Trail, says its prepared to sell the trail to the Town of Georgina.
That’s good news for Ken McAlpine, Manager of Parks Development and Operations, who says the town has been waiting for an answer from the provincial agency for over three years.
It’s also good news for local snowmobile riders who are regular users of the trail in the winter months.
That’s because the trail, a former rail line which extends from Sutton through Brown Hill to Zephyr, will remain in public hands and not be sold to private developers.
However, there are some caveats.
According to Mr. McAlpine, Infrastructure Ontario will conduct an appraisal to determine the fair market price for the lands.
But he says it will not share the appraisal with the town.
Mr. McAlpine recommends that the town conduct it’s own property appraisal to ensure it’s getting fair value.
Mayor Margaret Quirk is also concerned about the costs of maintaining the trail.
Currently, the trail is maintained by the Georgina Trail Rider Snowmobile Club, through an arrangement with the province.
However, Mayor Quirk wants the town to explore possible cost-sharing arrangements with York Region and East Gwillimbury — as at least one of the bridges on the trail needs extensive repairs.
The trail will also require annual grading, according to Councillor Dave Harding, who’s company has done maintenance on the trial for several years on behalf of the Georgina Trail Riders.
Mr. Harding says the problem is not so much snowmobiles, but ATV’s and dirt bikes that chew up the trail during the summer months.
But even if a cost sharing deal is struck, it appears the town will have to absorb most of the bill. According to Mr. McAlpine, only one-tenth of the trail is in East Gwillimbury, the remaining nine-tenths is located in Georgina.
According to Mr. McApline, the next step is for the town to issue an expression of interest to purchase the trail. In the meantime, the town will explore possible cost-sharing arrangements – including splitting the purchase cost – with the region and the other municipalities involved.
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