Heritage railway wants to go “Disney style”
by Roger Varley
Uxbridge council was introduced Monday to the York Durham Heritage Railway’s new CEO who told them the YDHR now wants a new look.
Randall Bird told councillors YDHR needs to change its business plan, be more stringent in its safety requirements and address the problem of “volunteer fatigue.”
“We want to be an attraction, not a bunch of old guys playing with trains,” said Bird. “Most communities would love to have a heritage passenger railway as its core attraction.”
He said if the railway can increase the number of passengers it carries, it will then have funds to be a “first-class restorations location.” To that end, he said, the railway will offer more themed rides, better marketing, a new logo and a major makeover of the railway’s yard at the railway station. He told council YDHR must clean up the yard, paint train cars and engines and maintain the property “Disney style.” As for themed rides, he suggested the possibility of “Old West” railway holdups, something YDHR did about 20 years ago.
Council told Bird that YDHR and the township would have to enter into discussions with Metrolinx, which owns the rail line, to talk about the feasibility of installing a parking lot on the west side of the tracks.
To maintain the rolling stock, Bird said YDHR must be able to do restoration work year-round and said the railway wants to erect a “temporary” work shed on site to allow that to happen. Additionally, Bird said the railway wants to place fencing around the entire site, with entry through controlled gates. He said the fencing would enable YDHR to control passenger flow, reduce the risk of injuries to the public and help prevent vandalism. On top of that, he wants permission for YDHR to put in a parking lot on the property capable of holding up to 300 vehicles. He added that YDHR’s payroll this year will exceed $500,000.
“We must present a professional attraction for all ages and demographics,” he said. “Changing times require changing business plans and YDHR needs to become more agile.”
Bird, former CEO of Waterloo Central Railway, a heritage line running to St. Jacobs, Ont., claimed to have taken that railway from near bankruptcy to $4 million in sales in 30 months. He said YDHR projects $10 million in visitor spending this year.
He told council YDHR needs “immediate” approval for the work shed and quick approval to begin clearing and grading the property for parking and installing fencing. He also asked council to approve joint funding for the parking lot.
“We are not asking for money,” Bird said. “We are asking for open assistance in making both Uxbridge and YDHR to go-to in the GTA for family fun.”
Ward 5 councillor Todd Snooks said although vandalism is a problem, he has concerns about fencing in the site, noting many residents walk across the property to reach downtown from Glen Acres, a thought echoed by other councillors.
Mayor Dave Barton offered that “the last thing I want to see is an industrial-type rail yard in our downtown.”
Ward 4 councillor Bruce Garrod said he wants council to have a meeting with YDHR to discuss the details of their proposals.
by Roger Varley
Notes from the April 15 Council Meeting
Jumpstart continues its success: Pat Higgins gave his annual update on Uxbridge’s Jumpstart program to council on Monday, announcing that last year was “outstanding.”
The Canadian Tire store owner said Uxbridge’s Jumpstart, an initiative of the Canadian Tire Corporation, is the No.1 chapter in Canada, raising $77,000 last year, all of which remains in Uxbridge.
Higgins said this year’s Jumpstart games will be held at the arena on July 19, the fifth year for the games. He said he expects 250 children to take part, well above the number who attended the first year. He said the number of places at the games is “probably maxed out.” Parents wanting to register their children for the games day can do so through the township’s summer camps, through the schools or online.
He noted Jumpstart now has a presence in four public schools in Uxbridge as well as the high school.
Jumpstart raises money to help children afford the cost of taking part in a wide range of sports and other activities. Higgins said the money comes from Canadian Tire donations, the Gary Roberts charity golf tournament and donations from service clubs.
Higgins said $453,000 has been contributed since Jumpstart began in 2005, assisting about 6,500 children.
What about my road?: Council received several letters this week as a result of a recent decision to lower the speed limit on Cemetery Road, all asking for the same consideration.
One resident on Mill Street complained of “full-out speed demons” and added: “If you change the speed on one residential street, you have to change it on all other streets with the same demographics.”
Other letter writers wanted the speed limit reduced on Second Avenue in Barton Farms.
Mayor Dave Barton said in order to address the complaints, the township needs to assemble data on speeds people are travelling on residential streets.
Ward 5 councillor Todd Snooks said there needs to be one speed limit across the urban area for residential streets.
Another writer said the intersection of Elgin Park Drive and Toronto Street South presents a danger to seniors living in Shobrook Gardens because the signal lights do not give seniors enough time to cross the road. She suggested that a pedestrian signal be installed that stops all traffic when activated.
Yet another resident complained about the poor condition of Concession 5 south of Ravenshoe Road.
And, in a related matter, clerk Debbie Leroux presented council with a report recommending that the name of Cemetery Road not be changed.
“We heard loud and clear from the residents on this,” Leroux told council.
A developer, David Sud, had requested the name change because he said he was finding it difficult to sell homes he has developed there because of the name.
Tower versus tower: “This isn’t going to work.”
That was Mayor Barton’s response to a request from Rogers Communications to erect a communications tower at the rear of Zephyr park. He noted that the location would only be about 100 metres away from a tower recently installed by Fibrespeed, owned by Cosmin Pop.
Barton said a new tower would interrupt service between Pop’s Zephyr tower, a second one in Goodwood and a proposed location in Sandford.
Council agreed to ask Rogers to come before council to comment on the possibility of blocking other towers.
Council says “No” to region realignment: Council passed a resolution Monday soundly rebuffing any thoughts the provincial government might have about realigning the region.
The Ford government recently appointed two officials to study regional governments in the province with an aim to improve efficiency and service delivery.
In the resolution, council noted that 90 per cent or better of Uxbridge residents are satisfied with the township’s customer service and governance. It also said the municipality does not believe in a “one size fits all” or “cookie cutter”approach to local democracy.
The resolution said: “The constituents of Uxbridge value their choices, voices and diversity of representation and should have a direct say before any change in municipal representation or possible merger with other municipalities.”
Goodwood News with Bev Northeast
Is spring here? Hopefully we see a turn-around in the weather in the next week or two, and park cleanup can start!
Don’t forget, Sat., May 4 is Treasure Hunt day! From 8 a.m. – 1 p.m., residents can put out on the curb the articles they want to give away – a great way to recycle, reuse and assist others in the community. And on Sat., May 25, from 7 a.m. on it’s the township-wide garage sale! Please put out your freebies that may be left from May 4 so others can pick them up along with the for sale treasures at the garage sale.
Hang a red balloon at the end of your street and on the front of your property to help guide people to both events.
Goodwood Baptist Church will hold Good Friday service at 10 a.m., followed with a lunch, all are welcome to attend. Easter Sunday will have Lloyd Knight bringing special music to the service. Music on April 28 is with Joan Allen; May 12 with the Reflections; May 19 and May 26 with Susan Ryman and Irene Kirk.
The ladies meeting is Sat., May 11, with brunch at 10:30 a.m. The last meeting will be June 15.
Vacation Bible Camp is July 8-12 from 8:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. It’s free to children aged 4 – Grade 8; the seats are filling up rapidly so please call the church and get your registration in before June 1 and receive a free t-shirt. Call 905-640-3111 or goodwoodbaptistchurch.com
If you are interested in preserving the original town hall (Lions Hall, the original County Seat,) please contact Eleanor Todd at 905-640-1580. We have lost too many of our heritage/historical buildings! The past is important, the present should be protected and the future honoured, so let’s work together to keep and preserve this very unique building for future generations.
Friends of the Thomas Foster memorial are looking for volunteers. Call 905-640-3966 or email@example.com
Thank you to those who respect the speed limit and the residents.