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Maley vs. The Greenway

My friend – and I do mean friend – John Lindsay, has written a letter to city council and to the press comparing the Elgin Greenway proposal to the Maley Drive Extension project. John points out that “both are strongly endorsed by staff and have been split into separate phases.” Furthermore, he says, “Both are part of “master plans” which seem to be “set in stone.” Basically he suggests that Council is wasting a lot of public money on frivolous projects instead of taking care of basic maintenance of parks and roads and making other pressing improvements. A lot of people will agree with John.

Many will also agree with his criticism that the Greenway could remove 270 parking places downtown that are needed for the Arena that Council has decided to move.

I think John’s opposition to the Greenway is misguided, and that the comparison with the Maley Drive project is misleading at best.

The Maley Drive project came out of quite a different group of staff and a quite different vision of the city from the Greenway suggestion.

Maley was proposed in the early 60’s on the view that Sudbury would be experiencing continued growth and that the main direction of growth was to the northeast. That proved false, but the City’s road engineers kept it at the top of the transportation plan for 40 years. The project will eventually cost $160 million and In my view was a disastrous mistake for the city.

Elgin Greenway Phase 1The Greenway proposal was a suggestion made as part of a downtown Master Planning project that had a 5-year horizon and was based on much more modest population projections. It took into account more recent experience from around North America that suggests that strengthening town cores is both economically and socially beneficial.

The Greenway project was partly achieved already through the Architecture School and the farmers’ market. It incorporated the necessary and already scheduled replacement of the Nelson Street Bridge, and improved access to Ramsey via that bridge.

It responded to the often expressed complaint that Elgin Street is ugly and repulsive for visitors to the city. It included, with variations, roadwork along Elgin that was already in the transportation master plan. The new parts of the plan were to be pretty cheap – some links – some grass, some lighting, some benches and plantings, places for artwork. The Greenway proposal basically added a vision to glue together a lot of work that was going to be done anyway.

All these pieces were bundled to make a project that would satisfy Council’s desire for a big vision that could attract provincial and federal money. I think the engineers and planners may have gotten a bit enthusiastic about some of the details that were included, but the truth is that a lot – probably most – of the money in the Greenway proposal was going to be spent anyway.

The Greenway project is not really very much like the Maley Drive Extension. It is cheap and comes out of a 21st century vision of the City. Maley Drive was very expensive and comes out of a mid-20th century vision that has already gone south.

So, John, I am with you in your continuing disappointment about Maley Drive, but I actually like the Greenway project.

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