Last summer, residents in the communities around Margaret Greene Park strained outdoor gathering limitations to tell City of Guelph officials and a couple of comms professionals from Metrolinx to share their outrage. It was a hot summer day, and nearly six months later on a cold winter’s day, Metrolinx has announced that the park is safe. They will not be placing a traction power station behind the park after all.
To recap, Metrolinx held a virtual open house last summer on the electrification of the Kitchener GO Train line. Sharp-eyed participants noted in the presentation that Metrolinx had identified a spot along the trail behind Margaret Greene Park for a traction power station (TPA), which regulates the power taken from the hydro lines and as it goes into the electrified train tracks.
Outrage from neighbours around the park, and sympathetic people across Guelph, prompted a grassroots campaign to dissuade the Province’s transit administrator from what they thought was a fait accompli.
Then, on Thursday morning, Metrolinx media relations and issues specialist Nitish Bissonauth posted on the company’s blog that while they don’t know where the TPS will go, it will not be built in Margaret Greene Park.
“Metrolinx has ruled out Margaret Greene Park in the City of Guelph as a potential site for the traction power substation (TPS) required for electrification,” Bissonauth wrote. “Metrolinx has spent the last few months exploring every possible alternative site where this infrastructure could go and, unfortunately, we have been unable to identify a suitable site that meets our technical requirements with minimal impacts to communities.”
Metrolinx assures that this will not affect their timetable in implementing two-way, all-day GO Train service to Kitchener through Guelph. The study has been put on hold for now, but feedback from the open house and other engagement about the project will be held for future consideration. According to Metrolinx, nine potential sites were explored for the placement of the TPS, but none of them are apparently suitable.
Residents concerned that Margaret Greene Park was Metrolinx’s preferred site, which is not something Metrolinx itself indicated, advocated hard to Metrolinx to change their minds and drafted City staff and Ward 4 City Councillors Mike Salisbury and Christine Billings into the process.
Billings brought forward a motion at August’s regular meeting of council that forced a suspension of the Procedural Bylaw so that council could formally file their rejection of Margaret Greene Park as the TPS’ location before Metrolinx’s deadline for engagement.
“This was a united effort,” Billings said in a statement. “There were public meetings, a Council motion, letters and e-mails, a meeting with the Minister of Transportation at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference, and many discussions at the staff level. With this news today, that effort has paid off.
“This is truly a win for the neighbourhood,” she added.
Billings ward-mate noted that some hard lessons have been learned in the process, and will hopefully build better engagement going forward.
“This issue has forged a renewed commitment to communications between Metrolinx, the Ministry of Transportation, and the City of Guelph,” said Salisbury. “I’m thrilled that Margaret Greene Park is protected. I’m also pleased with the relationships that have been built to ensure the community has a voice in future changes.”
“I’m thrilled that Metrolinx has responded to the concerns of the community, City staff, and elected officials. We said that a city park is not the right place for this infrastructure, and they heard us,” added Mayor (and former Ward 4 Councillor) Cam Guthrie.
Another person who heard a lot about the issue is Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner who also expressed gratitude to Metrolinx for listening to residents, and how this entire debate “showcases the importance of community engagement and consultation.”
“This park is important to the Guelph community and it deserves to be kept intact,” Schreiner said. “I will continue to advocate for a suitable site to be found for electrification because we need more clean transit for the Kitchener-Waterloo corridor.”