People give Brock Trail a pulse


Zoning meetingBrock Trail meeting

Same chairs, different day...


It was a bit of a shock to walk into the Memorial Centre community hall Monday night, for a meeting on the future of the Brock Trail, and find the place... if not packed with people, at least reasonably crowded.

I have long grown jaundiced about the low level of public involvement in the dry, unsexy minutiae of municipal business. I was expecting something more like the scarce attendance at last Wednesday's public meeting on the zoning bylaw, where city councillors, city officials and consultants made up half the attendees.

Like I said, it wasn't standing-room-only, but the higher attendance at the Brock Trail meeting – where there were only one city official and three city councillors out of nearly 45 people – suggests there is some community buy-in to the trail enhancement project.

And that means the Brock Trail capital project, despite being put on the financial equivalent of life-support in this year's city budget, still has a pulse.

Now it's just a matter of keeping it going.

There's no doubt the Brock Trail won't get revitalized and extended without significant financial help from outside city hall. Two-thirds of the cost, in fact, is supposed to come from outside sources, which could mean up to $1.5 million if the entire project is to be done, north to the Back Pond, south through the railway tunnel, west to St. Lawrence Park and east to First Avenue.

Mayor David Henderson has been keen on community partnerships as the way of the future for like-to-have infrastructure improvements. He is quick to point to the Rotary Park upgrade as a success story.

The Brock Trail is as valuable a recreational asset as Rotary Park. Brockville is an ideally-sized near-square of a city for this kind of walkable infrastructure, allowing people to walk from one end of the community to the other.

It is yet another addition to that hard-to-quantify treasury of features that give this city a superior quality of life.

Rotary Park, however, has the benefit of local Rotarians, with their established networks and community organizational skills.

The Brock Trail group has begun to assemble allies of its own, but the next step is translating these gains into contributions from the community.

A few more crowded meetings, some pledges from donors and – most importantly – some early tangible results, such as an extension to St. Lawrence Park within the year, will turn that pulse into a more vigorous heartbeat, one that can be sustained throughout a long-term project.