Mark Clairmont |

GRAVENHURST — Any pretence about community building, neighbhourhood improvement, accessibility and walkability went out the door this week on Phillip Street E. in Gravenhurst.

A perfectly fine sidewalk of four blocks was ripped up and sodden over in one of the town’s oldest neighbourhoods for no good reason.

Save for a few bucks in the grand scheme of a multi-million budget.

Council’s talk about making the town more mobile friendly for families and seniors was paved over when instead of repairing an old walkway, it tore it up, replacing it with four feet of grass.

So says a concerned resident.

Work on the south side sidewalk leading to Gull Lake Rotary Park will leave just one side navigable away from the busy street traffic and alternative route between Bethune Drive and Hwy. 11.

A crosstown sidewalk on Phillip Street E. was torn up and is being replaced with sod rather than replacing it.

The section, built in 1940, runs from Sixth Street in the east across Bethune, First Street, Muskoka Road (main street) and to John Street and the elementary and high schools.

Council ignored the pleas of neighbourhood delegation led by resident and Gravenhurst Archives chair Judy Humphries, who was told it was cheaper to pay a contractor $25,000 to remove it than $80,000 to replace it.

She got no support from Coun. Sandy Cairns who lives on the other side of the street, where the sidewalk will remain.

None of the councillors asked for it to be replaced.

Humphries made her entreaties early in council’s first term in office about eight months ago.

She said: “People walk down our sidewalk from the east side of town all the time to go to school (accessing the path at the Scout Hall or walking along John to Mary Streets), to go to the Library (Beth Cruickshank walks down our sidewalk to go to the library every week, and she lives a way over near the town offices), to go uptown etc. People walk strollers along here to go a get ice cream at Tastebuds all summer. Everyone uses the sidewalk on this side of the street to access their mailboxes.”

She said: “Apparently there is a tripping hazard on the street (although I am hard-pressed to find it unless they mean at the corner of Third Street where the ploughs and cars have roughed up the edge) – easily fixed.”

She said all it needs is about one foot of repair work at Third Street.

Adds Humphries: “What a colossal waste of money for no reason whatsoever. What an inconvenience to all the people who use this sidewalk.

“Since we have lived in this house for over 40 years at 331 Phillip St. E. (south side) we have walked that sidewalk for 40 years with our babies and now our grandchildren, and all the people on our side of the street use this sidewalk to get the mail (on Third Street).

“Imagine how many people will now walk up or down the road rather than cross and then cross again. This street is really busy so the potential for someone getting hurt is huge.

“I think it might be important for people to see how the town is wasting money on this when a few hundred bucks would have repaired a small tear in the pavement.

“Think of how many sidewalks and roads in our town have ‘tripping hazards’. Let’s rip them all out.”

Work is to be complete by the end of next week, Aug. 16.

Judy Humphries can see little wrong with this sidewalk the town calls a hazard. She questions, then, whether every sidewalk in town in such condition should be replaced.
Wood pallets laden with sod wait to be installed on the boulevard along Phillip Street E. in Gravenhurst after council refused a plea to replace the sidewalk.
Contractors tore up the sidewalk this week and will finish the work by the end of next week, Aug. 16.