I would like to take issue with a letter addressed to the principal of Desert Sands Community School dated Nov. 27, 2019 from Kleo Landucci, Chief Commercial and Corporate Affairs Officer for Ashcroft Terminal.
Ms Landucci commences her letter by stating “It has come to our attention that members of the Desert Sands Community School administration and student body have been vocal in encouraging the School’s support of a private group of community members that are building a walking path along Evans Road.”
If her declaration is indeed true, I would like to extend kudos to the administration and students for getting behind an initiative that has real meaning to them. The youth in our community have demonstrated that the environment is important to them and that they care about where they live. How better to promote a deeper appreciation for the environment and higher quality of life than by supporting a walking path along Ashcroft’s greatest, yet most unrecognized, natural asset?
Ms Landucci continues by saying “It is our understanding that the proposed walking path on public property has not been endorsed by the Village of Ashcroft.”
It is true that the Village of Ashcroft mayor and council did not resolve to provide a letter of support to the Ashcroft Pathways to Wellness Task Force, a citizen’s group working on the construction of a three-kilometre community pathway along Evans Road in Ashcroft. They opted instead at their Nov. 12, 2019 meeting [to vote that] “That Council include at the 2020 Budget discussions, consideration of a Trails Master Plan that could identify feasible trails and pathways for the development of a trail and walking path network in the Village of Ashcroft.”
The resolution does not exclude Village support for a walking path down Evans Road. It is to be noted that all councillors, when asked at an all-candidates meeting held before they were elected a year ago, publicly supported such a pathway. The mayor also signed the Task Force’s petition earlier this August in support of the development of a riverine pathway, along with over a hundred other electors of the Village of Ashcroft.
Ashcroft Terminal was asked to support the walking path initiative, but declined, requiring a detailed analysis of the project scope and impacts, which included an engineering/civil works report and plans, liability and insurance coverage details, an ongoing maintenance plan, and a safety plan with respect to the impacts of increased foot traffic on the road. Perhaps Ashcroft Terminal should be more proactive, rather than reactive, in showing that it is “committed to being an active corporate citizen” as claimed in the letter.
Ms Landucci, who speaks on behalf of Ashcroft Terminal, implores Desert Sands Community School to consider “the best interest of the safety and security of the students and their families.” Yet the heavy transport vehicles to and from Ashcroft Terminal, now common and destined to increase with the trans-loading and bulk handling facility’s expansion, are largely responsible for the increased safety concerns on the road.
Let’s not forget that taxpayers have contributed more than $14 million dollars through federal grants to Ashcroft Terminal’s development. Since Ms. Landucci states that “the safety of our staff and the community are the first priority for Ashcroft Terminal,” I would expect significant community investment on their part to ensure that this is the case.
As Ms Landucci acknowledges, Evans Road is a public road. The roadway has been used by the public for over a hundred years, and the public has an inherent right of access. Citizens can cycle, walk, or run along the roadway and cannot be prohibited from doing so. Motorists and pedestrians should not feel intimidated from accessing this right.
It is my honest opinion that the letter by Ms Landucci trespasses beyond the corporation’s boundaries and transgresses into the jurisdiction of public educators and officials.
Perhaps the school, as well as the entities to whom Ms Landucci sent copies of her letter (MLA Jackie Tegart; Ashcroft Village mayor and council; and School Board Trustee Vicky Trill), will respond and take a stand to demonstrate what it actually means to “work to build a vibrant community for all residents.”