BY ROSS ANDERSEN
Caledon residents insist that master planning of the Cheltenham Badlands should be put on hold until further research is done.
The fifth public meeting, held by the Ontario Heritage Trust (OHT), took place at the Inglewood Community Centre on Wednesday, where residents shared their opinions.
The meeting of approximately 60 people determined the badlands’ future relies heavily on public opinion. The badlands have been fenced off to the public since May 2015.
“We put up a fence to manage the traffic, and accommodate public safety, said Sean Fraser, Director of Heritage Programs and Operations at OHT.
Since the OHT is in control of the property, the organization makes all final decisions. Public meetings are held to give a voice to those residents.
“Public consultation is the core to the master planning process,” said Kendrick Doll, an OHT spokesperson.
A master plan is in place to create a safe visitor experience, while preserving the natural landscape. On a busy weekend, the badlands see up to 2,000 visitors. Since there is no parking, the traffic results in illegal parking, and creates hazards for both pedestrians and drivers.
The unique landscape is deteriorating after years of public access. “In a study done by the University of Toronto, the badlands have declined in elevation by 3 metres, since the ‘70s,” said Fraser.
Erosion is caused by humans and weather. Human footprint and water trajectory have shaped depressions in the land.
“Even with the fence keeping people out, erosion forces of water will continue to naturally flatten the badlands,” said Doll.
“We’ll need to continue to monitor the site to understand the ongoing erosion impacts and vegetative effects when removing direct public access.”
Located just north of Mayfield Rd. in Brampton, the badlands are considered a geological treasure, and are one of the best examples of topography in Ontario. The breathtaking view is made up of exposed bedrock, which resulted in removal of vegetation 100 years ago. The 36-hectare clay hills make up the unique landscape.
“Before last year, the badlands have never been closed off to the public,” said Fraser.
The area is a popular destination for visitors from surrounding GTA communities.
Because there is no available parking, visitors park their cars on the shoulder of Olde Base Line.
“It became clear the best option was to temporarily close the badlands, until all needs were met,” said Ward 2 Regional Councillor, Johanna Downey.
Downey explains that the amount of time and resources that have gone into public meetings have been paramount.
Different suggestions were made during the meeting, such as a 33-space parking lot built on the northeast portion of the property.
“A parking lot would completely defeat the purpose of maintaining traffic, said Cheltenham resident Liz Shaughnessy.
Residents agreed a parking lot would only attract more traffic, and is only a temporary solution. Shaughnessy suggested a tour bus, which would transport visitors to and from the site.
As an area resident for the past 50 years, she explains it is hard to see the badlands fenced off, but adds it is the right thing to do.
“I almost lost my life after my accident driving on the dangerous road,” said Shaughnessy, who collided with a car that was driving into on coming traffic. The accident resulted her being in a hospital bed for the next month.
“Traffic is a priority in this case and we have to come to a solution,” she said.
Local businesses are also being affected by the closure of the badlands.
“It’s hard to admit that we are losing business, but it’s a reality,” said Roxanne Mountain, owner of the Inglewood General Store.
Mountain explains because the badlands are closed, those numbers of visitors don’t exist anymore. Businesses will continue to suffer from the closure, she explains. When Mountain opened the Inglewood General Store 19 years ago, out-of-towners would flock to the badlands and often visit her store.
The variety of concerns brought to the table set the tone for the meeting, and asked the master plan to be put on hold.
A public meeting on June 1 will announce three major concepts of the master plan.