The Town of Fort Erie has begun to map out an Active Transportation Master Plan that will ensure the municipality is a safe place where residents can choose to walk, run, or cycle to their chosen destinations. But before that can happen, the Town is seeking community input.
This comes after Mayor Wayne Redekop announced plans for the creation of an Active Transportation Master Plan at Monday’s council-in-committee meeting.
He said the master plan will identify gaps in existing infrastructure and the intent is to complete “a more comprehensive network of on-road and off-road trails, sidewalks and bike lanes.”
The master plan is important because active transportation “promotes active living and is a healthier alternative to vehicular travel, which is also better for the environment,” Redekop said.
According to Chris Millar, the Town’s neighbourhood planner and a representative on the Fort Erie Active Transportation Committee (FEAT), the master plan has been something that FEAT has been working toward for the past seven years.
Whether it’s a necessity to get to and from work or for recreation, Millar said many people are choosing to walk or ride a bike as a preferred mode of transportation. That’s why having a master plan to better connect Greater Fort Erie is important.
“In 2017, money was allocated to the budget to retain a consultant to generate an active transportation master plan,” Millar said.
WSP Canada Group Limited was hired and has been gathering data behind the scenes for the past few months.
Now comes the next step, gathering community input. Millar said residents are encouraged to visit the Town’s website and provide input on what they’d like to see through an interactive tool.
“We’re using a tool that provides (data) for a mapping interface. What that means is you can put on the map exactly where you think something should happen, what you’d like to see and drag something on the map,” Millar said.
“This goes one step further than typing in an answer into a survey. This shows us what (residents) are talking about…”
The idea behind the interactive tool is to identify trends based upon what people think Fort Erie needs.
Community engagement sessions and a public house will be organized but dates are not yet confirmed.
“We’re trying to identify the groups that would benefit from these sessions and set aside dates where we can meet with them,” he said.
Millar expects the master plan to be completed by the fall and the master plan will have a 10-year shelf life. When it comes to budget time, the council can choose to set aside funds and what projects will need to be completed each year as identified in the master plan.
“With this master plan, we’re not talking about going out there this year and putting things in place (immediately). We’re talking about identifying needs and the projects will be completed over time.”
Millar explained having a master plan is a significant step in the right direction because it allows a municipality to go after federal and provincial grants.
“Having a plan like this leverages the Town’s ability to go after grant funding. When you’re demonstrating to the province, or at the federal level that you have a plan and you have priorities, their minds are put at ease that these monies are going to be used effectively,” he said.
“It’s not any different then sewer projects or major roadways. When you’ve done your homework and you’ve made a plan, it helps in the infrastructure world.”
He said there are gaps of connectivity in Greater Fort Erie needing to be addressed including the areas of Prospect Point Road and Dominion Road in Ridgeway where many new houses are being built.
“That was one of the drivers, how do we get these communities (Bridgeburg, Crystal Beach, Ridgeway and Fort Erie) to feel connected,” he said.
“There are more houses being added with sidewalks but there isn’t a sidewalk on the main roads so when people walk out from their neighbourhoods, they are led to a street that has gravel shoulders,” he added.
There’s also a challenge for residents on Thunder Bay Road who want to walk or ride their bikes to the shops in downtown Ridgeway.
Millar also pointed to the fact there’s no infrastructure linking Stevensville to Ridgeway or Bridgeburg. He said a railway corridor that’s been abandoned near Eagle Street reaching all the way into Bridgeburg is something the Master Plan could consider.
“These are the types of gaps in pedestrian infrastructure. We need to identify those, prioritize and put capital money in place (to improve them). That’s what these (master) plans are all about,” Millar said.
For more information about the Active Transportation Master Plan visit www.forterie.ca and click announcements section.