An anonymous donor has put up $1 million to revive a people-powered project that has been talked about in Sackville since the 1990s.
Ross Thomas of the Sackville Footbridge Working Group says he’s hoping the town will lend its support to a pedestrian/bicycle crossing over the TransCanada Highway.
In a presentation to town council last Monday, Thomas again made the case for what he called “this never-say-die” pedway project that would link the hiking trail in the Sackville Waterfowl Park to the trail on the other side of the highway that stretches all the way across Canada.
“We believe this funding is more than enough to restart the initiative, assist with necessary preliminary studies and help leverage provincial, federal and private funding,” Thomas said.
“It’ll help the TransCanada trail become a viable and safe way to actively travel between Middle and Upper Sackville and downtown Sackville in an environment free of hydrocarbons and the congestion of the Main Street corridor.”
He added that it would also link to well-developed trails in PEI and Southeastern New Brunswick.
“Tourists, who presently drive by our town to go to these destinations, may well stop here to begin and end their journey,” Thomas said.
“Sackville could become the eco-tourist centre that it already is for people who live here.”
He said the town could help by financing a cost-shared feasibility study and by facilitating discussions with the province which would own and maintain the pedway.
Half way there
Engineer Jeff MacKinnon told council he’s been working with the AIL group of companies and their subsidiary the Algonquin group on bridge design.
He said the AIL contribution of about $25,000 in in-kind services has brought the cost of the pedway project down to about $2 million.
“With the announcement tonight that we have a funding partner who is putting forward $1 million, we’re about 50% of the way there to making this project a reality,” he added.
MacKinnon referred to past presentations to council when proponents of the pedway project received town support.
In February 2015, the Tribune-Post reported that council did support the project, but councillors warned then that the town would not put any money into it.
“We are not changing our priorities,” Councillor Bill Evans is quoted as saying. “I just want to reiterate that we are not making any kind of commitment here.”
On Monday, Evans sounded a similar note.
He said that while he’s always loved the idea, the seven-figure cost of the project has always been a big stumbling block.
“Writing a letter of support absolutely, the fact you have a significant amount of funding makes it that much more attractive, but it’s still a huge commitment,” Evans said.
“We have all kinds of things that are in the works that are big bucks, so you’re not hearing any kind of commitment except enthusiasm,” he added.
CAO Jamie Burke promised that town staff would try to arrange meetings with provincial officials to discuss the project further including financing for a feasibility study.