New ‘up­scale’ benches are part of Iron Horse Trail up­grades

Waterloo Region Record - - Local - CATHER­INE THOMP­SON cthomp­[email protected] Twit­ter: @Thomp­sonRecord

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.

PETER LEE WATER­LOO RE­GION RECORD

New benches have been in­stalled along the Iron Horse Trail. They in­clude slots at one end where a bi­cy­cle can be parked.

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