Opinions wanted at mid-peninsula meeting

Irene Gentle - The Flamborough Post 02/21/03

Flamborough's voice should not be drowned out in the debate over the proposed mid-peninsula highway, feels Troy's Dave Eckersley.

A public meeting on the road aimed at connecting Niagara with the GTA will take place Tues. Feb. 25 at the Burlington Convention Centre. Both the City of Burlington and Citizen's Opposed to Paving the Escarpment (COPE) will participate in the meeting.

Jason Thorne, executive director of the Coalition on the Niagara Escarpment (CONE) will speak at the event.

But Eckersley, a member of COPE, wants to ensure that Flamborough isn't left behind in the debate.

"I personally, on behalf of COPE, have been trying to publicize the meeting in Flamborough as much a possible," he said, adding "it's a concern not just to Flamborough but also to Welland and everywhere else on the Niagara Peninsula."

The meeting will feature a presentation by the City of Burlington and by ITRANS, a consulting group hired by both Hamilton and Burlington to conduct a peer review on the issue.

There will also be an open mic portion of the evening and Eckersley hopes Flamborough residents will come out to make their concerns heard.

"It shouldn't be too focused on Burlington alone," said Eckersley.

There is space for 700 at the meeting and hundreds have come out in the past to participate.
The proposed highway is being touted by the Ministry of Transportation Ontario as a way to hit back at congestion, but critics, such as COPE, feel that other options, such as rail and transit, haven't been looked at.

"Everyone else has been asking them to reconsider the transit options instead of just planning another road," said Eckersley.

He likened the approach to "loosening your belt to fight obesity," adding "we're not saying don't put another highway ever anywhere. We're not asking for the world. But let's slow the process down."

There are currently four highway route options on the table. They include: heading east from Niagara to connect with the 407 ETR in Burlington or Hwy. 401 west of Milton, a widened Hwy. 403 or a widened Hwy. 6 and 403.

COPE began life last year to fight the proposed highway and has by now swelled to 1,000 members. And its message is being heard.

"More and more people are coming out to the meetings," said Eckersley. "Public opinion (of the highway) seems to be going down."

One high profile convert to the cause is wildlife artist Robert Bateman, who once featured the Niagara Escarpment in his works.

Bateman has spoken out on behalf of COPE and has also donated some of his work to be purchased in a silent auction at the Feb. 25 meeting. A small sketch and a signed print will be up for grabs. A Welland artist who also focuses on the escarpment has donated work for the cause, too.

"It's not just going to be a boring lecture," said Eckersley. "And it's not just the MTO telling you there is going to be a road. People perceive (this type of meeting) as a little more hopeful."

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