The County of Haliburton is taking a closer look at the Rail Trail and its future development.

A new roundtable committee made up of councillors held its first formal meeting Sept. 11 to discuss the 2004 Rail Trail Master Plan and update its goals and guiding principles. Chaired by Coun. Carol Moffatt, the group went through the plan, reviewed how well the County has progressed with it and what to do next.

She also recounted an informal meeting held in July to set up the new roundtable.

“This is a big project and I think we agreed we’re going to take it chunk-bychunk, bite-by-bite,” Moffatt said.

The group went through different parts of the original plan, discussing whether they were still relevant or had been achieved. They agreed that several objectives, such as addressing the needs of all trail-users and promoting sustainable trail design, construction, and use, had not been met. Other principles in the plan, such as staging areas and washroom and picnic facilities, also have yet to come to fruition.

“We all fully acknowledge there’s an awful lot of work to be done,” Moffatt said. “The work to be done in achieving any number of these things is tied directly to finances. If we don’t have the money for it, we can’t do it.”

But members added that they have made strides in developing the rail trail and meeting many of the objectives, even if there is still work to do.

“All of these objectives should always be ongoing. They’re fluid,” deputy warden Andrea Roberts said. “Look how far we’ve come, because I think there’s a big difference between 2020 and 2004.”

Although the roundtable considered much of the plan still relevant, some parts were shifted or removed based on redundancy. The committee noted the plan will have to be updated to reflect the changes of the day, such as the significant rise in cycling.

“To achieve this trail’s potential, that’s what it should be about,” Roberts said.

The group also discussed partnerships. The Friends of the Rail Trail (FoRT) has received grant funding through the Haliburton County Development Corporation to hire a consultant, Jane McCulloch, to develop the trail as a linear park. FoRT provided a video presentation to County council Aug. 26.

Warden Liz Danielsen said they should have McCulloch present to the roundtable in the future to ensure alignment.

“I’d hate to find out in say March that we’ve gone in completely different directions,” Danielsen said.

“This is a person who has far more experience than any of us, so absolutely,” Moffatt replied but added they should ensure municipal direction is understood. “There are municipal reasons for doing some of the things we do, which directs some of the language in the document. We can’t be everything to everybody.”

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