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City of Waterloo is being asked to better maintain pedestrian walkways

Jane Mitchell is asking the city to take a closer look at better maintaining pedestrian walkways in the city

Former regional councillor Jane Mitchell is asking Waterloo council to look at ways it can better maintain sidewalks leading to trail heads in the city. 

She said that her husband was out for a walk with their dog in the Lakeshore Village area of Waterloo and he slipped and fell on a patch of snow-covered ice. 

"This specific trail has seen no winter maintenance for years," said Mitchell, "he scraped the side of his face and hurt his arm - he's okay now, but it just shows the problem there. There's a lot of ice and he didn't realize the ice was as bad as it is."

She said that her neighbours do a good job at clearing their sidewalks in front of their houses to ensure that the sidewalk is cleared right down to the concrete, but she said the city isn't doing the same thing.

"I just feel we've talked a lot about snow clearing, but frankly, I think the city should just clear where they should clear." said Mitchell. 

Mitchell is concerned that because of it being in a populated residential area that someone else is going to get hurt worse than what happened to her husband.

"When kids are going to school, they are walking through there, people are walking their dogs, seniors, people with strollers, kids on bikes and it needs to be cleared all year round."

There is a sign at the beginning of the sidewalk leading up to the trail head that says "No Winter Maintenance." 

Mitchell said that there are two neighbours on either side of the walkway that have cleared that area in years past but this year have felt that it's not up to them to clear that sidewalk.

The city of Waterloo responded to 570 NEWS in an email suggesting that because there is a sign that states there is no maintenance that takes place that it lets people know what to expect. 

"Many pathways in the city are located through environmentally sensitive areas. They are open for winter use, but cannot be maintained as traditional sidewalk/trails as we cannot use salt, or the trail itself is not conducive to plowing. This could relate to limited access or surface materials which cannot support our snow removal equipment. In other locations, there may be another trail in close proximity and both are not needed. It is also important to understand that many cities including Waterloo rely on ground water and must be very careful with how much salt is being used. Winter maintenance is always a balance between providing safe passage for people and vehicles and also ensuring that we are not causing damage to the environment and to the resources that we rely on." 

Rob Deutschmann is a personal injury lawyer in Kitchener and he said that just because the city has a sign stating this specific trail isn't maintained, doesn't mean it would absolve the city of any wrong doing.

"The city is still responsible for clearing an area where it's known that there will be people going through there," said Deutschmann, "having a sign up, the city might be able to deflect a little bit of responsibility by saying 'we had a sign up and they should have known that it was an unsafe place' but that doesn't absolve them of any liability."

Deutschmann said that when you look at the trail in question that it's an icy stretch that anyone can see but are now forcing people to find an alternate route to get to where they are going. 

"Where are they supposed to go if they are trying to get from point A to point B and that is the most convenient way to go and that is a city-owned sidewalk. So, you're saying three seasons of the year you can use this except for the winter season."

The city said that it maintains sidewalks fronting city properties.

"Where sidewalks are located along parks and other open space where trail heads are typically located, the city will maintain those sidewalks. It is important to note that there are always exceptions. In some areas adjacent property owners may maintain and in other areas, the city may clear sidewalks fronting a private property in order to access a city-maintained section or for safety and ease of equipment manoeuvring. There will always be some flexibility based on specific site needs."

Deutschmann said that if you're aware of people using this trail then there's an expectation on the city to do something about this.

"Under the Occupier's Liability Act, it could be viewed that the city has taken a wreckless disregard for the safety of other people."

Mitchell said that this specific area has been a thorn in her side for the 30 years that she has lived in the area.

"This needs to be done for the whole city where there's no winter maintenance," said Mitchell, "it won't be done for this year but let's look at next year."


James Sebastian-Scott

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