New ‘upscale’ benches are part of Iron Horse Trail upgrades
KITCHENER — New bike-friendly benches along the Iron Horse Trail are a big hit with many trail users.
The Iron Horse Trail is undergoing a makeover, with $3 million of improvements planned in 2018 and 2019.
Those improvements include widening and repaving the trail, and adding more benches and other street furniture.
The 16 new benches installed in recent weeks have been getting positive reviews on social media.
The long wooden benches, by Mmcité, are sleek, stylish and include slots at one end where a bicycle can be parked.
“They’re a bit different than our typical sort of street bench,” said Niall Lobley, Kitchener’s director of parks and cemeteries. “‘Upscale’ is a nice word to use for them.”
The benches reflect the trail’s status as the city’s “premier trail,” he said.
“It’s used by 250,000 people a year. It’s extraordinarily popular, so we wanted to make sure we have got infrastructure, which will last and which reflects that this is a bit of a destination.”
The benches are on bigger concrete pads, so there’s room for people to easily park a walker or stroller next to the bench.
Local cyclist Michael Druker posted a photo of one of the benches on Twitter, prompting several positive reviews and hundreds of likes.
“We love these! It’s the kind of planning that takes a city from good enough to awesome,” said one.
“Very cool,” said another. The city is “delighted by the enthusiastic and supportive comments,” Lobley said.
This year, the city widened and repaved the trail from Glasgow Street to about David Street, improved access to the trail at Victoria Park and built a new parking lot near the trail. In 2019, new signs will go up along the trail, the parking lot will be paved, and the remaining Kitchener sections of the trail — up to the Waterloo border and down to Ottawa Street — will be finished.
Plans to add lighting along the trail were stymied after a $700,000 provincial grant disappeared after the new Conservative government was elected in June. Staff plan to put forward a proposal for council to consider for the 2019 budget, Lobley said.
The improvements to the 20year-old trail are meant to make it more user-friendly and welcoming, he said, and are a recognition of the trail’s importance. “It’s a significant transportation corridor. It’s well used throughout the day.”
“We used to build trails for recreation,” he said. “Our trail network is still serving that purpose, but it’s also being used more and more as a daily commuter route through the city. That’s where things like lighting become much more important.”
The city is planning to hold a public information meeting on the rest of the trail work in mid January, said Ashley DeWitt, the landscape architect working on the project.
More information is available on the city’s website at kitchener.ca/ironhorsetrail.
New benches have been installed along the Iron Horse Trail. They include slots at one end where a bicycle can be parked.