By Chad Ingram
A trail connecting Riverwalk to Rotary Park.
A trail connecting Rotary Park to the Minden fairgrounds.
A trail connecting Panorama Park to the village.
These are some of the recommendations laid out in a new parks and recreation master plan for the Township of Minden Hills.
That plan prepared by Orillia’s PlanbyDesign was presented to township councillors by landscape architect Michael McMullen during a Sept. 10 committee-of-the-whole meeting.
“What we learned in talking to the residents of Minden is that opportunities for hiking biking and walking are in high demand” McMullen said. “People are starting to demand higher quality parks and trails.”
He emphasized that parks and trails are important in attracting new residents to community and are seen as economic drivers.
The No. 1 priority coming out of the 60-page plan is the expansion of the township’s trails network.
Some suggestions are connecting Rotary Park to the Minden fairgrounds connecting Panorama Park to the village and connecting the arena to the Riverwalk boardwalk.
Another priority was the development of a signage program including trail route markers directional signage trailhead signs etc.
The plan also takes an inventory of the township’s parks and trails making recommendations for each site.
In the case of Panorama Park for instance it was recommended it be made into more of a landmark location with the construction of an observation deck and the installation of panels to educate visitors about the history of the community.
For Snowdon Park there were recommendations for an improved roadway and parking improvement of the boardwalk and trailhead kiosk and the implementation of donation box that could help the municipality with some maintenance costs
For Harrington Park (at the Minden Wild Water Preserve) a picnic area and defined portage route that is separate from areas used by vehicular traffic was recommended.
For the park at Furnace Falls near Irondale the plan suggests improved washrooms better park identification signage along County Road 503 and eventually the development of transient camping sites along the perimeter of the park.
There are also a number of recommendations for the fairgrounds including a tree inventory and management plan and the construction of a multi-purpose indoor venue.
A survey filled out by 16 households showed Riverwalk and its boardwalk as far and away the most-used park spaces with Snowdon Park Panorama Park Lutterworth Park and Harrington Park seldom used.
The survey also asked respondents what activities they were interested in what they found important in a public park etc.
Councillor Pam Sayne was not a fan of the plan.
“I’m very disappointed with it” Sayne said rhyming off a list of concerns.
Among them was that the survey used in the creation of the document was only filled out by 16 people.
McMullen said a public meeting had been advertised and that the surveys had also been available with the community services department.
“I don’t think it’s a good sample to use” Sayne said.
The Ward 2 councillor also took exception to the recommendation that Lutterworth Park located along the Gull River near Moore Falls be sold as surplus land.
“Selling off the only public space left in Ward 2 is not a wise idea” Sayne said.
The plan “recommended that the park be considered surplus lands due its site conditions limited use and minimal site amenities and features.”
The plan also recommended that the township do more winter maintenance of its parks to enhance recreational opportunities during the cold months.
“Are you aware of a community as small as ours that does maintain winter trails?” Councillor Jeanne Anthon asked McMullen. “How do they do it?”
Minden Hills does not clear the Riverwalk trail during the winter.
McMullen said some municipalities do incorporate trail-clearing into their winter sidewalk budgets but indicated the report was speaking more to leisure infrastructure in parks such as outdoor skating rinks.
“This is kind of a starting point a living document” Reeve Brent Devolin said of the plan. “We can modify it it going forward.”
A copy of the plan will be forwarded to the community services advisory committee for recommendations.
The plan cost $45000. Half of that came from the province’s Rural Economic Development fund with the remainder coming from a Haliburton County Development Corporation grant and about $12000 from the township.