At its June 24 electronic meeting, Huntsville Council directed staff to prepare agreements with Hidden Valley Highlands Ski Area and the Huntsville Mountain Bike Association for the purposes of developing and maintaining public, accessible mountain bike trails in Huntsville.
The agreements would be subject to input from the Town’s legal counsel as well as its insurer. Municipal staff was also directed to present the draft agreements to council at its July meeting for final approval.
The move comes despite staff’s recommendation not to enter in such agreements, citing liability concerns. But despite the recommendation from staff and following public lobbying in favour of the initiative, council voted in favour of supporting the development of public mountain bike and multi-purpose trails, noting that the benefits far outweighed the risks.
Huntsville Deputy Mayor Nancy Alcock spoke passionately about partnering with a private landowner and the mountain bike club for the creation and maintenance of trails which could be enjoyed by the community at large and benefit tourism. With a similar agreement having been hashed out in Bracebridge, Alcock said she had spoken to a council colleague in that municipality. “They are really keen on their partnership. It works really well for them and they see it as an economic development tool,” she said, adding that in speaking with one of the champions of the project, she was told it had the support of the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) of Canada. She said that’s important because IMBA provides guidance on standards and signage, among other things.
“The partnership angle was really important to me because it’s not putting all of the onus on the municipality,” she told councillors, adding that the Town needs to be involved in order to make the trails accessible to the public as well.
Alcock told council that the trail system would comprise two, four-kilometre trails, which would be classed as beginner to intermediate in terms of difficulty.
She also told council how important outdoor activities for physical and mental health are and applauded the partnership. “There are municipalities clamouring to have this kind of partnership arrangement and I have heard absolutely nothing but 100 per cent positive feedback from anybody who had heard about this issue being before us tonight—who think that it’s something that we should be doing,” said Alcock.
Council concurred and unanimously passed the resolution asking staff to return to their July meeting with draft agreements.
See a recording of the meeting here.
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