Another Asphalt Pathway for the Garden City

Lets face it – we’re not big fans of asphalt. 

Especially asphalt pathways. 

And certainly not asphalt pathways through greenspaces. 

We are for active linkages that connect neighbourhoods and that support recreational and active transportation opportunities.  And we would like to believe that trail improvements to existing pathway systems can provide those opportunities at reasonable costs using environmentally sensitive materials and without excessive construction that disrupts delicate greenspaces.  At a time when we need to make decisions that combat climate change this is a quality of life issue that makes sense.

What doesn’t make sense is the asphalt component the City is choosing to use for the construction of new pathways and the rehabilitation of existing pathways.

Case in point is the Grantham Rail Trial in north St.Catharines.  The former CNR Lakeshore Spur Line that runs from Roehampton Ave. to Parnell Rd. has been an active recreational trial since 2002.  It’s a quaint neighbourhood to neighbourhood trial that spans nearly 4000 metres.  It’s worn from use over the past 20 years and is in need of a facelift.  Kudos to the City for identifying its importance as a ‘missing link’ that will benefit from surface improvements.  It’s all in the City’s Transportation Master Plan and the Official Plan as well as previous trial master plans.  The RFP (Request For Proposal) for the project identified 2 options for the trial surface – a granular surface, and you guessed it, an asphalt surface.  The City chose the asphalt option even though it came in over budget, requires extensive excavation and disposal and may cause drainage issues that will require some culvert installation.  And all at a cost of $1,565,000.  Yep, we know …. The cost of doing business.

Let’s face it once again … asphalt is an option that shouldn’t be an option.    

Asphalt pavement is a high VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) substance that emits a witches brew of organic compounds that pollute the air and water.  It typically has a lifespan of 20-25 years but narrow pathways, such as the profile proposed with this project, can require significant repairs within 10-15 years.

Granular pathways, on the other hand, are water permeable, contain aggregate that is often recycled content, can typically be sourced locally, and reduces the heat island effect by reflecting solar radiation, rather than retaining heat. And the cost of a granular surface is considerably less expensive than asphalt, requires less maintenance and lasts longer.  Look no further than the main access pathway at Malcolmson Eco-Park also in north St.Catharines.  It was constructed in the mid 90’s and with only minimal maintenance and repairs is still highly functional and of course environmentally friendly.  And that’s really the tipping point.  We urgently need to embrace green alternatives if there is any hope of mitigating climate change.

The bottom line is that pathways using a granular substitute instead of asphalt significantly reduces the environmental impact of trial linkages.   And while there are considerable savings in using a granular substitute as opposed to asphalt those savings pale in terms of environmental pay-offs.  In this case the City got everything right except the … you know …. the asphalt.

7 thoughts on “Another Asphalt Pathway for the Garden City

  1. I really disagree with this post! Why target a small infrastructure improvement to sustainable transportation when there are so many tens of millions going into parking resurfacing, road expansions, and failures to tackle our car dependence?
    This is just a weird thing to focus on when there are so many bigger issues.


    1. Hi Alex, thanks for the comment – We couldn’t agree with you more. There continues to be an ongoing degradation of our green environment, many times at the expense of smaller issues that are outside of the public’s view. While it may seem to be overburdening to some the simple answer is that we need to focus on all issues that effect climate change, both big and small. The old adage ‘take care of the nickels and dimes and the dollars will take care of themselves’ is appropriate in our efforts to mitigate climate change. City Hall needs to know that every decision has an environmental consequence.


      1. That’s a fair point… except it appears you have yet to make a single comment or take any actions against the vast concrete ocean. This seems like your first time making a stink about a city project, and like I said, it is a weird and ineffective first stink to make!
        Please be an ally to the environmental movement! We don’t need another group making every imperfect positive move the city tries to make into a huge deal. City leaders like councillor Porter really do have our town and environment at heart. I know your hearts are all in the right place, but your complaints against this trail are hurting the cause.


    2. This is not an isolated incident. Just a year ago council agreed in principle to pave over part of Mt Locks Park, citizen owned property, to provide an additional 27 parking spaces for The Keg restaurant, adding even more blacktop to a sea of asphalt. This is occurring after council passed a resolution recognizing that we are in the midst of a climate crisis. Every decision, no matter how small, should be examined in that context.


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