The Bruce Trail Conservancy is proud of our relationship with the 960 landowners who generously allow the Bruce Trail to cross their private land.
Many of these "handshake" agreements have been in place for close to 50 years, and the landowner has the right to allow or withdraw access at any time. Easements are a more permanent arrangement whereby landowners are compensated for a permanent right to cross their land. Easements can only be established if the landowner agrees. The Bruce Trail Conservancy only enters into agreements, whether for access via a handshake agreement or via an easement, with willing landowners.
It is important to note that none of the handshake agreements with our 960 landowners are in any way impacted by the new legislation in the proposed Supporting Ontario's Trails Act, 2015 (Bill 100). Bill 100 does not make those handshake agreements permanent (i.e. it does not turn the permission into an easement), nor does it take away any rights of the landowners to decide what happens on their own land. The landowner can still ask for the Trail to be removed and we honour our agreement to do so upon that request. If the landowner wants to enter into an easement agreement, a legal agreement is entered into and the landowner is compensated for that (by cash or a tax receipt).
Reading Bill 100 will correct any misinformation regarding access to private land, as will this recent note from Michael Coteau, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport:
The province introduced Bill 100, the Supporting Ontario's Trails Act, 2015, to improve access to Ontario's trails, building both a healthier, and more prosperous Ontario. Our ministry held consultations with over 250 organizations, including municipalities, Aboriginal groups, trail organizations and not-for-profit organizations. The feedback the ministry heard during these consultations was integral to shaping the proposed legislation.
To be clear, an easement pursuant to Bill 100, if passed, would be a voluntary agreement between a landowner and an eligible body or bodies. No property owner would be compelled to provide an easement unless they agreed to do so.
- Michael Coteau, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport
Landowners along the Niagara Escarpment that so generously allow the Trail to cross their land should be thanked and applauded. They are important partners in the Bruce Trail Conservancy's mission. If you are a landowner and have any questions I would be pleased to speak with you.
The Bruce Trail Conservancy
905.529.6821 extension 23