Plans for a walking trail along the east side of the Muskoka River running below Woodchester Villa in downtown Bracebridge appear unlikely to go forward for the time being.
During the most recent Bracebridge general committee meeting, councillors agreed to move forward with a Downtown Master Plan that includes a massive redevelopment of the downtown area.
The plan includes tearing down the old arena to build affordable housing; creating a skating rink, splash pad, rooftop patio, and trails along the Muskoka River; and potentially a museum in the former Bracebridge Library.
A focal point of the plan is the redevelopment of the current Rona site on Entrance Drive.
While a walking trail and numerous outdoor amenities are planned for this site, Council had questioned whether there was the possibility to build a walking trail on the opposite side of the Muskoka River below the historic Woodchester Villa site. The trail would have extended from Entrance Drive to Taylor Road, but after studying the issue staff reported back that there were a number of challenges that would need to be addressed.
Staff said part of the property required to build the trail had been sold to the District in 1985, who had, in turn, sold part of that property to an adjacent landowner.
Staff also reviewed the topography in the area, particularly in front of Woodchester that includes slopes of 40%, and said they would have concerns about erosion due to the recurring flooding in the area and challenges related to the slopes.
As such, staff said the ability to create a trail on the east side of the river would present several costly challenges, as rights would have to be secured over private land.
None the less the Downtown Master Plan has now been approved by Council.
The plan has been called a “high-level vision” but Town CAO Stephen Rettie said approval of the plan gives staff a specific mandate to proceed with the projects included.
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