Residents not set on plans for first phase of Talbot Trail relocation

Retired engineer John Mann stands where Talbot Trail is currently closed off, just north of Coatsworth Road. (Millar Hill)

Residents that live along Talbot Trail say they want to see all options explored before moving ahead with the current plan to reopen a stretch of the road.

At the January 16 council meeting, municipal councillors voted to take an alternative approach to kickstart the next steps for reopening a relocated stretch of Talbot Trail.

Instead of approving an environmental assessment report (EA) for a section of the road from Ellerbeck Road to Craford Road, council decided to file an EA for a smaller section from Ellerbeck Road to Stevenson Road.

As part of the decision, council also supported relocating a closed part of Talbot Trail so it can reopen in the next couple of years. Talbot Trail is currently closed to through traffic between Coatsworth Road and Stevenson Road, but there is still local access for property owners.

Chris Thibert, director of engineering for Chatham-Kent, said the first phase is posed to reroute Talbot Trail north along Coatsworth Road to 2nd Concession Line before heading east to Stevenson Road.

However, a group of landowners along the lake said they feel that is not necessary.

John Mann, a nearby farmer and retired engineer, said he felt council made the right decision abandoning the second phase of the project (Stevenson Road to Craford Road) but he still disagrees with council approving the first phase.

“When it comes to phase one, I don’t think the right decision was made,” said Mann. “Farmers in those areas will be affected and that’s important. However, it’s not the same as 30 kilometres of a new highway through existing farms.”

Residents have an alternative proposal that Mann said he feels is worth the municipality’s consideration.

“We think the road should move north about 50 feet away from the greenhouse (corner of Talbot Trail/ Coatsworth Road),” said Mann. “So build a new road with the current building code setbacks that exist, move it just south of the greenhouse and cut through the north side of the forest there. We believe that will give the road a 100-year lifespan.”

According to Thibert, there will be a 60-day review period for impacted residents to voice their opinions on the plans for that smaller stretch of road.

“The public then has an opportunity to send written comments back to the municipality for consideration,” said Thibert. “They will get included in the final report but they also have the opportunity to submit comments directly to the province.”

The final document for the 60-day review period will be posted online mid-to-late February.

After the review period, there will also be additional consultation, updated engineering designs, necessary land purchases, and hiring for the work.

“We have time now,” said Mann. “We have more time to implement a better plan.”