Chatham-Kent residents attend a public meeting regarding the closure of Talbot Trail near Wheatley due to shoreline erosion, July 31, 2019. (Photo by Allanah Wills.

Talbot Trail residents frustrated with municipality’s handling of road closure

Residents on Talbot Trail have been given an update on the closure of a section of their road, but many aren’t happy with what they’ve heard.

During a public meeting on Wednesday, municipal officials provided further information to Talbot Trail residents and business owners who have been impacted by a road closure that has shut the road down between Coatsworth Road and Stevenson Road. The road was closed earlier in the July due to erosion along the Lake Erie shoreline.

A number of frustrated residents turned out on Wednesday for the public meeting and questioned why erosion issues had not been addressed sooner.

Chris Thibert, director of engineering and transportation for the municipality, said the road is expected to remain closed indefinitely as a Lake Erie erosion study is completed to determine the impact.  He said early data shows erosion rates are occurring 20 times faster than historical data would have predicted. He said driving on the stretch road as it is now would put people at serious risk.

Thomas Kelly, CK’s general manager of infrastructure and engineering services, added that it was initially thought that the road would have more sustainability and would not need maintenance until around 2028.

Chatham-Kent residents attend a public meeting regarding the closure of Talbot Trail near Wheatley due to shoreline erosion, July 31, 2019. (Photo by Allanah Wills)

Chatham-Kent residents attend a public meeting regarding the closure of Talbot Trail near Wheatley due to shoreline erosion, July 31, 2019. (Photo by Allanah Wills)

“What’s changed is climate change. That’s why we initiated the study by the consultant to look at the erosion rates. The erosion rates are accelerating very quickly — much faster than ever predicted before,” he said.

Arleigh Smith, a life-long resident of Talbot Trail, said he’s frustrated because he believes the municipality should have seen these issues coming. He said Chatham-Kent should have acted sooner, however, he confessed that the closure hasn’t affected him very much, as he is able to utilize the posted detours.

Smith suggested that the municipality should install temporary traffic lights and reduce traffic down to one lane, away from the erosion.

“It hasn’t deteriorated that much [so] why are they closing it?” he asked.

Kim VanDeven, a co-owner of Robinson Motorcycle, called the situation a “confusing mess” for anyone looking to travel to her business from out of town. She added that the municipality dropped the ball by not providing notice of the closure to businesses and residents.

“There was no warning, no notice whatsoever. We had one of our mechanics go out for a test ride on a bike… by the time he turned around and came back, the road was closed,” she said.

VanDeven echoed the frustration of many at the meeting, that the road should have been repaired soon before such a significant closure was required.

“They don’t have a solution. They have no idea what they’re going to do,” she said, before accusing the municipality of putting up road closure signs and “walking away.”

However, municipal officials stated that they intend to present a short-term solution to council before the end of the year to safely open Talbot Trail to traffic as quickly as possible.