While still concerned about the risk factor of allowing snowmobiles to travel along Highway 118, the District of Muskoka’s Engineering and Public Works Committee will move forward with creating a new 500-metre trail.
The trail will run along 118 between Carr Road and Penwood Road.
The decision still needs to be ratified by district council at their December 20th meeting.
Fred Jahn, the district’s Commissioner of Engineering and Public Works says they received 141 messages supporting the proposal and one against. Phil Harding, councillor, and Mayor of Muskoka Lakes, noted the person against the motion was more frustrated that this is still being discussed. “It was a matter of ‘I can’t believe council is deciding or discussing this’,” he explained.
“With snowmobiling bringing so much economic impact to these areas in the winter, we are so happy to once again provide a connected route around Lake Muskoka, and to help drive those valuable dollars to our local businesses,” Muskoka Lakes Snowtrails Associationofficials wrote in a Facebook post.
Steve Elliot, Vice President of the MLSTA, explained that a private landowner revoked access to a critical trail that connects Port Carling to Bracebridge. With this trail along the highway in place, sledders now are able to travel smoothly between the two areas.
If ratified, the agreement would only be in place for two years. Jahn explained to committee that it’s on MLSTA to figure out a permanent agreement. He added that he’s confident they will, but will check in with them ahead of the 2023 sledding season to see how they’re progressing.
While liability and safety have been a concern during the debate, Harding said he knows sledders will stick to the groomed trail along the highway.
Harding said the problem with trails on private land is that they sometimes are created on big, open fields and new snowmobilers tend to venture off and go play in the powder.
The cost associated with the short-term trail will fall on the shoulders of MLSTA. That includes installing signage and maintenance.