Sudbury City Hall

'Our voices were heard': Sudbury city council protects trails after student petition

Allison Caswell and her friends could not stop smiling on Tuesday evening after Sudbury city council agreed to save a section of local trails from being paved over by a possible road extension.

'Thank you to the public for showing us what you feel is important,' Mayor Brian Bigger says

Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School students started a petition to stop Sudbury's proposed South Bay Road extension from cutting through trails. From left to right: Josh Tillson, Kelly Thompson, Allison Caswell and Kate Richards. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC)

Allison Caswell and her friends could not stop smiling on Tuesday evening after Sudbury city council agreed to save a section of local trails from being paved over by a possible road extension. 

"I didn't expect for our voices to be heard that much and have so many people behind us," Caswell said.

"It kind of shows that you should speak up if you want something to change."

The Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School students started a Change.org petition a few weeks ago, urging the city to remove a proposal from the draft transportation master plan that would lengthen South Bay Road. 

The extension would have created a second access way to Laurentian University, but it would have cut through the post-secondary school and conservation authority's trail network that the students use for running and skiing. 

Laurentian University and Conservation Sudbury opposed the plan. 

Councillor Fern Cormier successfully passed a motion at Tuesday's council meeting to remove institutional and conservation land from the proposed project, which means the extension could no longer cut through Laurentian's trails.
Ward 10 Greater Sudbury city councillor Fern Cormier presented a motion on Tuesday to stop the proposed South Bay Road extension from crossing institutional and conservation lands. (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)

"I would rather explore other options to mitigate traffic issues that may arise in this area by looking at improved active transportation alternatives, and improvements and changes to our public transit operations," Cormier said. 

"This is the right thing to do."

'The power of social media'

Cormier's motion was seconded by councillor Deb McIntosh.

"I've always held that there are viable alternatives to building the South Bay extension," McIntosh said.

"I do want to thank all the people who respectfully weighed in on this issue. Hearing from the public is always most welcome."

Grade 11 student Kelly Thompson was impressed by council's remarks. 

"I was just happy that through the power of social media we got our petition around, and they all viewed it," Thompson said.

"They all knew what we stood for."
Ward 9 Greater Sudbury city councillor Deb McIntosh seconded councillor Fern Cormier's motion to protect Laurentian's trails from the proposed South Bay Road extension. (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)

Councillor Signoretti also supported Cormier's motion. He even walked over to the students after council's vote to shake their hands.

"I appreciate the students coming out to support and voice their concerns," Signoretti said.

"We do listen to the public and we want to make sure we do protect the gem [trails] that we have right in our backyard."

'Trails will get to stand for generations'

Mayor Brian Bigger agreed.

"This is really how the council process properly works," Bigger said.

"Thank you to the public for showing us what you feel is important in our community."

The students said they now know change is possible, and they are thankful for this lesson in municipal politics.

"Our community spoke up," Grade 11 student Josh Tillson said. 

"Our voices were heard and now those trails will get to stand for generations after us as well so that's awesome."

About the Author

Olivia Stefanovich

Reporter

Olivia Stefanovich is a network reporter for CBC News based in Toronto. She previously worked in Saskatchewan and northern Ontario. Connect with her on Twitter @CBCOlivia. Send story ideas to olivia.stefanovich@cbc.ca.