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Path shut for more than three decades may be reopened

Dec 17 2011

Victoria councillors want to reopen the pathway linking Chandler and Gonzales avenues in Fairfield.

But whether or not the $250,000 project will become the city's greenways priority for 2012- pushing other projects back a year - will not be determined until budget deliberations in the new year.

The overgrown and neglected path, fenced off at one end and blocked by a driveway at the other, was closed more than three decades ago after residents complained it had become a magnet for litter, vandalism and trespassing.

While some of the residents whose properties abut the path are not keen to see it reopen, many in the neighbourhood are.

More than 600 residents signed a petition calling on the city to reopen the path.

Coun. Geoff Young said it would make more sense to sell it than to hold it and not allow public access.

"When I got into public office I did not envision that my job would be to say to people: 'This is public land. You own it, but I have ordered that you may not go on it.' That is what the council did when they closed it up," Young said.

"There is no more profound misuse [of public land] than simply closing it off and not allowing the public to go on it."

Young said he would be interested in any lower cost options.

Coun. Marianne Alto suggested that the city approach School District 61 for a contribution.

Coun. Ben Isitt said there is an army of volunteers in the community that is prepared to help clear the path and bring the costs down.

"I've spoken to the president of CUPE 50 [representing city workers] and the union is open to put in for its own volunteers to take part in the path clearing," Isitt said.

"They would like to see it happen in May or June, when their members are fully employed, so that's a time of the year when volunteer labour is not an issue for the union."

The city's 2003 greenways plan recommended reopening it as a link between Margaret Jenkins School and Pemberton Park and School District 61 supports reopening it as part of its safe routes to school program.

City staff recommended it be made a priority for 2012.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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