It was a packed gallery at city hall Monday night as the city’s planning committee looked to make a recommendation on the Medway Valley Heritage Forest.
Committee members were split down the middle on whether making the natural area near Wonderland Road and Fanshawe Park Road more accessible to those with mobility issues. There are concerns doing so would have an adverse effect on the area’s ecosystem.
The $2.1-million plan would see the Heritage Forest opened up to those with mobility issues, adding two bridges and paved paths.
Ward 13 Coun. Tanya Park thinks more parties need to be consulted before they make a decision that could have lasting implications on the area.
“When it comes to consulting with our neighbouring Indigenous governments and organizations, they need to be at the table when the idea is formed because otherwise, we are just pushing what we have always done onto our friends and partners,” said Park.
“I’m pretty disappointed they weren’t at the table off the hop.”
While efforts are being made to make the area more accessible, there are some who are worried that could have a negative impact on the environment.
Former councillor Sandy Levin says they need to keep the environment in mind when making these decisions.
“There was also no Ministry of Natural Resources involvement because it wasn’t done as an environmental assessment, no First Nation consultation and no site visit by the advisory committee.”
Gil Warren, an executive of the Woodfield Community Association, wants to see the plan move forward.
“This is a divisive issue, but I think we should approve the plan that has been put forward, and move forward.”
It was a packed house at city hall for the meeting, and overflow rooms had to be set up to accommodate.
By the end of the lengthy meeting, committee members voted 3-3, meaning the matter will go to full council next week without an official recommendation.
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