Trail and error: Bluewater Trail member decries road extension over Watson Trail

Sarnia’s Tom Bernard is behind a petition to halt Sarnia’s plan to build an extension of The Rapids Parkway on what is now the Howard Watson Nature Trail between the Highway 402 overpass, seen here, and Exmouth Street. Marco Vigliotti

Marco Vigliotti

A member of the city committee tasked with maintaining Sarnia’s trail system says the proposed extension of The Rapids Parkway onto the Howard Watson Nature Trail is a bad idea.

Bluewater Trails member Jared Fedora says city hall’s plan to extend the currently dead-end road over a section of trail near Highway 402 jeopardizes the long-term viability of the 16-kilometre path.

“The trail is sufficiently narrow at that point that a busy street – as the proposed extension is bound to be – may endanger pedestrians and will, without question, destroy the greatest element of the trail: its relatively car-free nature,” he told The Journal.

Fedora says he decided to speak out because Bluewater Trails has failed to openly voice its opposition to the project.

He says the organization’s low public presence and small, roughly $22,000 a year contribution from the city has allowed it to “go unnoticed.”

“(City council) know we exist but we don’t do anything to say, ‘Hey, this is not a good idea,’ even though it’s our job to advise,” Fedora says.

Nevertheless, he predicts the road extension is “going to happen, regardless” of opposition from path users.

Sarnia retiree Tom Bernard has collected 100 signatures on a petition that opposes building a road atop the nature trail.

The Wiltshire resident, who returned to the cross-city trail last week to sign up supporters, says the recent flash of wintry weather slowed his door-to-door canvassing efforts. He plans to resume the doorstep campaign shortly.

“It’s supposed to get nicer so I can do more streets then,” Bernard said.

City officials say the proposed road extension connecting The Rapids Parkway with Exmouth Street would ease traffic congestion along the bustling east-end corridor and still allow the path to remain in some capacity.

But Bernard says building the new road would set a dangerous precedent and pave the way for further contractions of the trail.

He recently too to the Internet to drum up support, launching an online petition on change.org.

Those interested in adding their name to the petition can do so at www.change.org/p/lambton-wildlife-inc-bluewater-trails-committee-keep-howard-watson-trail-develop-alternate-route-solution.