Residents of Lake Country shouldn’t expect Pelmewash Parkway to turn into the recreational jewel of the area anytime soon.
Talks between the Ministry of Highways and the District of Lake Country to turn the old Highway 97 over the Lake Country control have hit a serious slow-down for a number of factors.
Negotiations on the future of the old CN Rail line through Lake Country as well as the general disrepair of Pelmewash Parkway means the provincial government still owns, makes all the decisions and is responsible for maintenance on Pelmewash Parkway.
“I don’t think anything is going to happen immediately,” said Lake Country councillor Owen Dickie. “Who knows? Ultimately it becomes a budget item for everybody. It depends on our budget and the Ministry of Highways budget.”
And one of the main budget items both the Ministry of Highways and Lake Country are looking at is what could be as much as $1 million in improvements to the road before any of the work Lake Country would like to do to make it a pedestrian-friendly road can be done.
“Highways would like us to take over without the million (dollars) or more that we have assessed that it would take for scaling work and resurfacing and fixing it to a standard that is at least a municipal standard,” said Lake Country mayor James Baker during the civic election campaign, when asked about Pelmewash Parkway. “We don’t want to sign off until they have done a lot more remediation work.”
When the new Highway 97 opened in the summer of 2013 it re-routed traffic from zipping through Lake Country along the windy stretch of the old highway to a fast, new route that bypassed parts of the municipality. The District spent more than a year holding public consultations with Lake Country residents, asking what they wanted to see on the stretch of lake-front road that would become a municipal road and renamed it Pelmewash Parkway.
But since then there has been little done on Pelmewash and the road has continued to fall further into disrepair.
“The road has not been particularly very well-maintained over the last year,” said Dickie. “It’s been quite awhile since there has been any scaling on the rock faces. There are lots of dead trees and patching work that needs to be done. I’m not terribly excited about taking over something that is going to immediately become a maintenance issue.”
At this point discussions have been taking place between staff at the District of Lake Country and the Ministry of Highways. But separate negotiations that led to a tentative deal for a multi-jurisidictional group to purchase the CN Rail Line for use a trail took time away from the Pelmewash discussions.
Lake Country administrator Alberto De Feo couldn’t comment on any financial numbers associated with the Pelmewash discussions but said staff plans to bring the new council up to speed on the issue after the council is sworn in.
“What I can say is that there are a number of technical details that need to be ironed out,” said De Feo. “The technical discussions take time as there is a fair amount of detail. We want to make sure that the acquisition is not onerous on the taxpayers of Lake Country both technically and financially.”