SUMMERSTOWN, Ontario – The Friends of the Summerstown Trails (FOTST) asked the Township of South Glengarry for $26,356 in financial support for the coming fall and winter seasons to cope with COVID-19 related costs.
FOTST President Vic Leroux explained that the past two years have been financially challenging for the Trails.
Leroux told Council that due to ongoing labour actions that were undertaken by teacher’s unions during the 2019-2020 school year meant that they did not have the same financial support from school boards they received in previous years. That hit continued after the COVID-19 pandemic meant that all school outings were cancelled.
Leroux broke down the $26,356 ask to Township Council.
“The funding request is based on the needs and discussions we had with the Health Unit, as well as with the Township Parks and Recreation Department,” he said. “In order to continue with our existence, we believe our rental program has to continue. In order to do that, we need a staff of two on all weekends, Christmas holidays and March Break.”
Staffing alone would cost $12,000, which would cover two student employees and a casual Township employee.
Furthermore, due to the need to social distance and sanitize equipment, FOTST will require a larger office trailer at the Summerstown Trails this year than in previous years.
This new, larger trailer would cost $8,000.
The remaining money would go towards purchasing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), hand sanitizer, signs, and trail equipment.
For their part, Leroux said that FOTST would be raising funds through a “membership blitz” which he said generated $5,000 in previous years.
Additionally, equipment rentals would generate $3,000 annually.
Leroux said that previous successful events, such as their Family Day activities which Leroux said usually attracts between 300 to 500 people will have to change to maintain safety during the pandemic.
If FOTST did not receive the funding, Leroux said that they would be limited to maintaining the trails and the parking lot.
Council seemed to receive the request positively.
“We are in a time of austerity in regards to the unknowns of COVID, but I think this is a great facility you are running and it bodes well with our Active Living Charter,” said Deputy Mayor Lyle Warden.
“In this time of the COVID pandemic, I think it is accepted that outdoor activities are the safest activities. This is the kind of activity we really want to encourage right now,” added Councillor Stephanie Jaworski who pointed out that the province had provided municipalities with COVID relief funding to help offset pandemic related financial pain and that this request could fit within the purpose of those funds.
Council received the presentation and Mayor Frank Prevost stated that he hoped to have a report back from administration by Oct. 5 on what the Township might be able to offer FOTST.
Starting this Sunday, Sept. 13 and continuing throughout the fall FOTST will be providing Ski Walking courses at the Summerstown Trails to help get residents active and ready for cross country skiing season.