$1 million donation for pedway project, but no commitment from Sackville Town Council

Ross Thomas speaks to Sackville Town Council

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

Jeff MacKinnon

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.

To read previous coverage of the pedway proposal, click here and here.

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8 Responses to $1 million donation for pedway project, but no commitment from Sackville Town Council

  1. Carol says:

    Way to go Ross!!!!!

    Please let us Town residents know how we can help you to make this much needed Pedway project become a reality!

  2. Steve the Realist says:

    So, going up Mallard Drive, over the highway using the sidewalk on Main Street, then down past the high school (or vice versa) to connect with the trail is too daunting for people? What is that, like an extra 15 minutes in walk time?? I have to think that $2M can be better spent locally than building some but ugly bridge across the highway. Does not have my support at all and the fact that my town council and/or staff are spending/have spent more than 5 minutes of my tax dollars on this, is shameful (and the donor (if they exist) should be ashamed of themselves too).

    • Graeme the Reelist says:

      Hey Steve, that 5 mins they spent might equate to .5 cents if your tax bill if that. The only shameful thing here is your lack of optimism. You should be happy someone in our town has that kind of cash to spend on a public project we all benefit from. Happy Holidays.

      • Steve the Realist says:

        Hi Graeme – You are correct on the .5 cents, and it is the longer term that I am concerned about (although the opportunity cost of public servants time spent on this effort rather than something more worthwhile is certainly a concern). Here is what I am getting at… If a donor contributes $1M and the taxpayers of Sackville pay the other $1M, that is roughly $200 per resident . However my tax bill (and yours) will carry more than that burden as taxes are based on a per-household, not per person criteria. That is just to build it and does not include costs to maintain it over a 20 year time period. It is also untrue that we all benefit from it. I don’t walk that trail so I will not benefit directly or personally from it. I am also not a business owner so I will not benefit from any tertiary spin-off from it through its construction, maintenance or increased tourism. Its positive impact on my property value will be negligible at best and the impact on my tax roll will be as a cost, not a savings. Everything has a cost, and the costs to build and maintain infrastructure is borne by taxpayers through local, provincial or federal taxes or the much more insidious service fee. This pedway is a ‘nice to have’, not a ‘need to have’ item for Sackville, and it is not by any means a game changer for this town. I would rather $2M be allocated to maintaining hospital services locally then on a one time ‘monument’.

  3. Les Hicks says:

    Congratulations to Ross Thomas and the other members of the Sackville Footbridge Working Committee on obtaining a pledge of one million dollars from an anonymous donor towards the construction of the proposed pedestrian bridge. This represents half of the projected cost of the project which if completed would be used by many people, both local residents and tourists, and as Ross mentioned could be a draw for tourists who enjoy hiking and biking. This seems to me to be the model for how proposed projects should be presented to Town Council for consideration. A working group of interested individuals organizes themselves and comes up with innovative ways of fund-raising for the project, including obtaining substantial donations from wealthy individuals, rather than expecting the town government to cover all of the costs of the project. It seems to me that with half of the funding already in place, it should be possible to obtain federal and provincial funding to share the remaining cost with the Town of Sackville.

    This is in stark contrast to the recent requests from individuals for the town to spend all of the projected costs (half a million dollars) for a new skateboard park. I have asked the town’s director of recreation if the town has been provided with any estimates of the numbers of the people who would actually make use of such a facility, and his answer was that it’s hard to tell since the number of people using the existing park varies from day to day. I have asked all of the town councillors if they are aware of any co-funding plans or expected number of users that have been presented to the town by the individuals requesting this expenditure, but have yet to receive an answer.

  4. local citizen says:

    I should think as well that there are many high school students who would like a safe, pleasant walk or bike to school without navigating traffic around 2 drive throughs and the busiest intersection in town. A good way to start the day!

  5. J.D. says:

    An important discussion to have regardless…

  6. Kata List Productions says:

    Its a great project.. hope it goes ahead… I signed Alex Thomas’ Petition for this years ago.
    I also promote the teens who wanted a concrete skatepark project in 2013…. Sackville Town Council sleeps through all the good ideas here… preferring to put it all to the next decade I guess.

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