How to merge modern road and park maintenance with the historic character of the Aragon Road and its recreational use?
The Aragon Road is a “forced’ road dating back to the mid-1800s. There are five “century” homes on the road and four historic barns. Much of the road is forested with trees that are up to one hundred fifty years old. Thanks to Cecil and Wilma Graham who donated a large parcel of waterfront land to the former Kingston Township, the road has retained its rural and historic character. In the mid 1980-s, Cecil Graham resisted the re-routing of hydro poles to run along the road and they remained on his land along the original right of way for hydro out of sight from the road. The Aragon Road just before and after the Graham farm retains its true Victorian era landscape.
Some of the century old trees at the Graham farm house on the Aragon Road. Note there are no hydro poles and lines in this long stretch of the road. The trees give an “park like” like feeling that should be preserved; any cut back and trimming should be done with the heritage landscape in mind. Maybe the City arborist and park staff should be consulted prior to planning any maintenance?
Lately road and park maintenance issues have been discussed by the RAC. During the discussion it was suggested that city parks and rural parks are different in their usage. While some rural parks are designed for ball games and other public use, other parks, such as the Cecil and Wilma Graham Park have been donated to the city “for the public to enjoy”. These are the words that Wilma Graham used to describe her family’s wishes. The Graham family and several of the residents on the road see public enjoyment of the parks and recreational areas along the Aragon Road to include: hiking, horseback riding, bicycling, jogging, fishing from shore, bird watching, roller blading and longboarding and other activities.
These recreational users share the no-exit road with automobiles, motorcycles, and farm vehicles. The small informal boat ramp serves to launch smaller boats, occasional swimmers, anglers, iceboat sailors and skaters. The water beyond the boat ramp is weedy therefore Sea-doo type personal watercraft does not use the launch.
While safety always is an important consideration, there have not been any vehicle accidents since we became residents on the road in 1982. A speed limit of 60 km per hour has slowed down most vehicle operators, except the occasional outlier. Policing the road for speeders is not practical; setting good examples by most residents seems to pay off.
Very recently the City’s road maintenance crews came to “edge” the road. This involved cleaning the side or edge of the existing road surface with a brushing machine and applying fresh tarmac about fifty centimeters, or a foot and a half, wide. This widens the road considerably without cutting trees, shrubs and wildflowers. It was done to improve and direct water run-off, prevent the cracking and abrading of the road surface, and, as a major benefit for recreational users, it allows them to travel more to the side of the road while motor vehicles can now give wider berth to the slower traffic. The job was efficiently and well done. Most residents might agree and we complement the maintenance department.
According to the Supervisor who came by to inspect the progress, after this edging and filling is some potholes, “they were done with this road.”
In the future however, there remain questions about maintenance and developments under the Waterfront Master Plan that is drafted by the City of Kingston.
Road maintenance might include brush control and tall grass cutting. Recently we have seen brush cutting as it should not be done. The “flailing” machine is not suitable for cutting young and older trees. This issue came before RAC and is resolved. Cutting tall grass is fine as long as it is timed properly since it also cuts wildflowers that feed beneficial insects needed for pollination. The Ontario Nature Conservancy recommends waiting with tall grass cutting till after most early wildflowers have bloomed. This seems common sense and it is hoped that the road maintenance schedule will consider this.
Should the Aragon Road be compliant with modern highway specifications? We hope not. In attempting to preserve its heritage character, cutting of tree limbs, new growth encroaching on the road itself and other consideration ought to be creative, sensitive and cognizant of the importance of preserving some of our rural history that is at the root of our modern existence in Canada. We hope that the planning of important maintenance work can be brought forward to the RAC for a second opinion before proceeding with the work. A Heritage Working Group within RAC might be desirable.
To optimise safety at the boat ramp it is recommended to construct speed bumps that require the auto traffic to slow down well below the 60 km/hr speed limit. This would be inexpensive and very effective with no damage to the historic character of the road.
The maintenance of the Cecil and Wilma Graham Park should only cover the area around the memorial to the late Cecil and Wilma Graham and the memorial itself. It needs weeding and the plaque needs to be remounted properly. To the west is a large area that is maintained by the local farmer taking off hay, something Cecil would have approved. To the east wildflowers and milkweed are abundant. It is suggested that this part remains wild. The flowers complement both the memorial and the spirits of the two persons it commemorates, and the milkweed is recommended by nature groups to leave as is because it is the sole nutrient for the Monarch butterfly that is in decline as a result of removing the milkweed areas on its migratory route north from Mexico via the eastern USA to Canada.
The large milkweed and wild flower patch on the east side of the Cecil and Wilma Graham Park. The memorial is in the background at the right.
It is recommended that these considerations and ideas inform the road, park and recreation maintenance planning at staff level and that RAC might consider this in the committee or in a working group.
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