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Numbers make a difference - County roads and trails managers

COBDEN: A packed room of cyclists and other active transportation (AT) enthusiasts heard a lot of good news from Renfrew County's roads and trails managers and from the organizers of the Ottawa Valley Cycling and Active Transportation Alliance - OVCATA at the organization's annual meeting here on October 4.

Steven Boland, the County's director of public works and engineering and Jason Davis, who coordinates the County's trail system told the gathering of about 25 members about progress in hard-shouldering the County's roads and developing its trails, including the new Algonquin Trail (former CP line). Mr. Boland congratulated OVCATA for the work that it is doing and encouraged the group to keep building its membership for maximum impact.

"Active transportation is starting to gain a lot of interest at County Council. That's where OVCATA needs to get involved. You need to develop a mass of people in support of what you're after. Numbers of people speak."

Mr. Boland said the County had become increasingly involved with AT since 2010 and that it currently budgets $150,000 per year for it, which, he acknowledged will not bring progess "as quickly as you'd probably like." Still, he says, as a result of economies achieved and funding opportunities, the County now has about a quarter of its 800 km of roads hard-shouldered. This year, for instance, La Passe Road and Doran Road were entirely hard-shouldered thanks to some "great pricing." Last year, Queen's Line was.

OVCATA members identified a few particular roads, especially Lake Clear Road, Burnstown Road, and Calabogie Road as dangerous and in special need of attention. Mr. Boland said they are all in the plan that was developed in cooperation with OVCATA members, but he asked for patience and support.

More progress could be coming, Mr. Boland said, if the County is successful in its application, in conjunction with six area municipalities, for $1.7 million in funding under the Ontario Commuter Cycling Program.The Town of Petawawa, he said, has applied on its own.

Jason Davis reported on the major strides that have been made in terms of developing and maintaining trails like the K&P from Renfrew to Calabogie, and the new Algonquin Trail, which runs the length of the County close to the Ottawa River. Slowly, he said, the pieces are coming together that may ultimately enable cyclists to travel from Mattawa to Petawawa on the trail, avoiding Highway 17 entirely.

He encouraged OVCATA to contribute, either in dollars or in-kind help to the development of trails. "We're always looking for partnerships," he said.

OVCATA co-chair Ish Theilheimer said that partnerships are at the core of the organization's mandate. "We're called an alliance because we try to bring people together, and our history of working with County is a good example of that."

Since the organization was founded in June, 2016, he said, it has accomplished a great deal. He listed some of its accomplishments, including:

- signing up 185 members

- successfully lobbying the Ontario government regarding upgrades to Highway 148, Highway 41 and Highway 17

- helping Renfrew County develop a bike map and "matrix" of priority roads for AT infrastructure

- working with area municipalities including Whitewater Region, Pembroke, Petawawa, Renfrew, North Algona, and Laurentian Valley

- organizing and participating in rides and events in Barrys Bay, Eganville, Pembroke, Renfrew, and Westmeath

- meeting with Renfrew County Council in March, 2017, and liaising on an ongoing basis with County staff

- launching a website that lists rides, routes and news about active transportation

- participating in planning for the Algonquin Trail (former CP line)

- sponsoring the Silver Chain Challenge in 2017

- organizing and getting funding from MTO through its Road Safety Community Partnership Program for the Renfrew County Cycling Safety Outreach Project in 2017. Through it, OVCATA distributed thousands of safety bumper stickers and rack cards.

- entering into partnership with Discovery Routes Trails Organization from North Bay spearheading the campaign for the establishment of the Voyageur Cycle Route passing through the Ottawa Valley

- working with OPP on cycling safety promotion.

At the meeting, members elected eight directors to the Board including (for two-year terms), Mr. Theilheimer (North Algoma Wilberforce), Debbie Fiebig (Admaston-Bromley), Ron Moss (Laurentian Valley), and Damien McCarthy (Petawawa), while electing, for one-year terms, Eric Price (Pembroke), Bob Peltzer (Bonnechere Valley), Patricia Krose (Whitewater Region), and Greg Ellis (Mississippi Mills).

PHOTO: County officials Jason Davis and Steven Boland show OVCATA members the progress they have made with County roads and trails on an enlarged map at the organization's annual meeting in Cobden, October 4.

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2017 directors of OVCATA

Chair: Ish Theilheimer (Golden Lake)
Secretary: Ron Moss (Pembroke)
Treasurer: Debbie Fiebig (Renfrew)
Members at large:
Damien McCarthy (Petawawa)
Jeff Mills (Almonte)
Eric Price (Pembroke)
Patricia Krose (Whitewater Region)
Greg Ellis (Almonte)

Robert Howe of Barrys Bay provides legal advice and support.