By Chad Ingram
Algonquin Highlands will not bepartnering with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry on the maintenance of Sherborne Lake Road south of Dorset.
Winding about 12 kilometres fromHighway 35 to the lake the logging road is owned by the province andis used to access a handful of cottages as well as by local huntersand fishermen.
The road also provides access totownship-owned campsites which generate about $16000 a year forAlgonquin Highlands.
The sites can also be reached throughthe township's water trails system.
The province has been looking forpartner organizations for the future maintenance of the thoroughfareand at a Jan. 21 meeting Algonquin Highlands councillors received avisit from Dave May of the MNRF.
As May explained a number oforganizations have come to the proverbial table including theBancroft-Minden Forestry Company the Trent Severn Waterway and theMinistry of Environment and Climate Change along with the MNRFitself.
The forestry company has said it wouldmake in-kind contributions the TSW $500 a year the MOECC $3750 ayear and the MNRF $7500 a year and up to $10000 in matchingfunds.
May said this arrangement left aminimum funding gap of $5750 a year for what would be a very minimumlevel of maintenance for a forestry road.
Additional terms and conditions foraspects such as “maintenance responsibility transitions” could benegotiated before a memorandum of understanding was signed May said.
Councillors were concerned not onlyabout the cost but the expectations work and legal responsibilitiesthe township would assume under an agreement.
“That's a big gap for a road thatdoesn't belong to us” said Deputy-reeve Liz Danielsen who alsoquestioned a requirement for the township to insure itself for theCrown.
“Essentially it's to safeguard theprovince . . . because we're not responsible for the actual work andmaintenance” May said.
Danielsen said she didn't think thecosts and risks made the situation worthwhile for the township.
Reeve Carol Moffatt said if thetownship entered into an agreement to the public it would be asgood as the township owning the road.
“It will become the expectation ofthe public . . . to fix it open it repair it put a bigger culvertin” Moffatt said. “To me it's a slippery slope to a place wherewe can't possibly survive.”
The reeve also expressed concern thatif other partners were not able to follow through on theircommitments it would be “the good old township” that would beexpected to come through.
Moffatt recalled that during the floodsin the spring of 2013 Algonquin Highlands paid $38000 to repairwashouts along the provincially owned Sherborne Road.
“We never even got a reply to ourletter requesting repayment” Moffatt said. “So that's a bit of aproblem.”
The four or so cottage properties thatare accessed by using the road were at one time Crown-owned huntscamps later purchased by residents.
“They're our taxpayers but we didn'tput them there” Moffatt said. “Philosophically what is ourcommitment to those folks?”
Councillor Marlene Kyle noted thoseresidents already have low expectations when it comes to the qualityof the road.
“They don't expect it to be acompleted road” Kyle said adding that entering the agreementposed too much financial risk for Algonquin Highlands. “It's likeputting a blank cheque out there.”
Without a partnership the MNRF willcontinue to use its $7500 budget to maintain the road until a gate2.8 kilometres in.
Moffatt suggested correspondences besent to the handful of cottage owners regarding council's decision.