Boardwalk Will Remain a Board Walk

In City Hall

By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
In spite of a last-minute appeal by Cobourg resident Keith Oliver at Monday’s committee-of-the-whole session of council, the boardwalk replacement project will proceed with a pressure-treated wood material (and a recycled plastic-composite material for the substructure).

Oliver made his appearance to urge a delay on final plans for the west-beach boardwalk replacement in order that a new material be considered instead of the aging wood currently in place.

Engagement exercises conducted to date have dealt with four possible materials, he said – asphalt, concrete, treated wood and a composite plastic material.

He argued that it would be worthwhile to hold off long enough to explore a fifth option: screened limestone mixed with limestone dust.

This has been used successfully on the Northumberland Forest trail system, he pointed out, urging everyone to drive the few minutes north to the Beagle Club Trail Head and check out the one-kilometre Heritage Trail. In spite of it being one of the most-used of the forest trails, he said, “It’s level, it’s stable, it has been in place for seven years and it is completely appropriate to its natural surroundings.”

Oliver related his conversations with experts such as Trail Co-ordinator Mike Muldoon, who also commented on the material’s stability on the trail.

Looking at the $1.3-million initial cost and the average annual maintenance cost of $60,000 for the recommended treated wood-recycled plastic composite option, he noted that other advantages to the limestone alternative include lower initial cost and lower maintenance cost as well as the improved trail quality.

While the staff report before council dismisses it as an option, he said, “I believe more work needs to be done to verify these statements.”

Debating the staff recommendation, council asked Director of Public Works Laurie Wills if the limestone option had been considered.

“We do use limestone for a lot of our multi-use trails in town,” Wills said.

“It’s a great product, no doubt about that. I did discuss it with our consultant, engineers and landscape architects when we were looking at alternatives. But because of conditions on the beach, for construction reasons, for maintenance reasons, for accessibility reasons…”

Wills added that high water levels on the west beach were another reason limestone would have proven unsuitable.

“By far it was the cheapest option, but we are not looking for the cheapest option. We definitely heard from the public there’s a pretty clear feeling they wanted the boardwalk, not necessarily the best value – because wood is fairly expensive. But it’s definitely the preferred choice among the public.”

Councillor Brian Darling agreed this is the sentiment he is hearing overwhelmingly.

Wills’s report noted an upset limit of $750,000, with 60% of that funded by the Active Transportation Fund and 40% debentured. In a further measure to reduce costs, public works staff will construct the boardwalk.

Councillor Miriam Mutton questioned the small rails that would be installed along the boardwalk. Wills described the rails as just a few inches high, meant to ensure that mobility devices did not slip off the sides of the boardwalk, which is a few inches off the ground. It’s a requirement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

Councillor Randy Barber took a moment to thank Oliver for his research and presentation.

“We heard you, Sir, and what you had to say,” Barber stated.

“The key difference, I think, is that a forest floor is entirely different than a sand-based walkway, a beach where water is going over it all the time.

“They certainly have taken that into account and, for reasons issued in the report, have decided against it. But I wanted to make sure you know we heard you, we listened to you, and we are moving on.”

Cecilia Nasmith
Author: Cecilia Nasmith

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