HALIFAX – Two public engagement sessions Thursday at the Dalhousie University LeMarchant Place Atrium are an effort by the city to measure public opinion and tackle concerns in the implementation of the Halifax Urban Greenway multi-use trail.
The city is looking at expanding two existing sections of the Halifax Urban Greenway, or H.U.G., along Beaufort Avenue in South End Halifax, but David MacIsaac, Active Transportation Supervisor for HRM, says the idea is much bigger than that.
“The vision is that you will be able to ride your bike from Point Pleasant Park, or walk, right down continuously to Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. Over 100 km of completely separated and dedicated active transport facility.”
He says the expansion is part of the city’s plan to increase active transportation which would promote healthy lifestyles as well as reduce traffic congestion.
The initial connection will run from Conrose Park through the H.U.G. on Beaufort Avenue to Saint Mary’s University, then a planned active transportation bridge would connecting to Pine Hill Drive over the CN railbed.
CN has not been cooperative with the city’s plan so far. They maintain control of the rail cut right-of-way and will not allow any part of the trail to be built on that land.
That means the bridge will need to be built to accommodate the multi-use trail’s connection to Point Pleasant Park and planners would need to reduce road width and remove parking in some areas.
Mark Poirier, president of the Halifax Urban Greenway Association, or HUGA, says the group has been advocating for this expansion for quite a few years.
“It’s a very positive move, we’ve been waiting a long time for the expansion of the one-kilometre trail … this is going to open it up to the other part of the city and really make a great expansion.”
He says they would have preferred the trail run closer to the railbed, but that CN policy does not allow for it.
Some local residents expressed concern about loss of greenery between their homes and the railroad, but the planners say the trail is intended to expand away from the railbed and not toward it.
Poirier says the trail shouldn’t remove greenspace, with the potential exception to make the trail wheelchair accessible on hills along the proposed route, which might require losing some of the green.
“There may have to be more done in terms of weaving the trail from side-to -ide. If that’s found necessary in the design, that might involve taking out more of the vegetation. So that is a concern that will have to be really addressed in detail in the final design.”
Elisabeth Stones lives along the proposed trail and says she’ll be able to bike directly from her home to her workplace once the trail is completed.
“I’m currently a bike commuter… you have to be a bit brave, unfortunately right now, to make that trip… something like this would really help with that.”
Poirier says, despite the compromises required to make the project work, HUGA is looking forward to it.
“We’re very excited to see this finally proceeding to expand what we’ve had, for the last almost a decade now, and we know this is going to be a real asset for the city, and that people are really going to enjoy it when it’s put in place.”
The two sessions on June 7 were the first step in public engagement.
From June 8 to 29 the information from the sessions will be available on Shape Your City Halifax, as well as an online survey for people who could not make it to the information sessions.