Lynn Holden says a decision to close a hilly portion of Line 6 in Oro-Medonte was done without public consultation. Residents and others traveling through the area must now make a significant detour, she says.

Lynn Holden says a decision to close a hilly portion of Line 6 in Oro-Medonte was done without public consultation. Residents and others traveling through the area must now make a significant detour, she says.

ORO-MEDONTE - Residents opposed to the partial closure of an Oro-Medonte road say their concerns have fallen on deaf ears at the township.
“Nobody seems to want to deal with it,” said Lynn Holden. “They’ve pretty much told me they call the shots here and they don’t care if the citizens of Oro-Medonte don’t like it.”
The township closed a roughly 500-metre section of Line 6 North between Mount St. Louis Side Road and Moonstone Road.
The area in question is a steep, dirt-surfaced hill that often washes out during rainfalls, its condition so poor that cars travelling in opposite directions are often forced onto the same side of the road.  
“It’s the only road in the whole of Oro-Medonte that connects the Moonstone Road and Horseshoe Valley Road,” said Holden, who lives at the crest of the hill.
Drivers in both directions are now forced to detour several kilometers via neighbouring concession roads, she said.  
“Every time I go out to Orillia or Midland, it is 22 more kilometers for me,” Holden added. “It is also 22 more kilometers for everybody else on the road.”
She said the hill was commonly closed in winter due to safety concerns, but was not reopened to traffic in spring.
Residents received no advance notice of council’s decision, she added.
“None of us had been informed,” said Holden, who gathered a petition with the names of nearly 300 residents opposed to the closure.
Reached by Orillia Today, Ward 1 Coun. Mel Coutanche refused to speak on the matter, saying Mayor Harry Hughes had addressed the issue in the media.
(Hughes in the interview said the decision to close the hill to traffic wasn’t necessarily permanent, adding that the township could not afford to bring it up to a safe standard this year.
Doing so could cost more than $500,000, he said.)
“We’ve had statements and the mayor was interviewed and one of the other papers wrote it up …  I can’t really comment on it, you need to talk to (the township’s communications person),” Coutanche said.
Asked why he wouldn’t comment since he represents the concerned constituents, Coutanche said, “It’s already been done, it’s already been commented on. I don’t have anything to add to what’s been said… My thoughts are what’s been said already by the mayor and spokesperson for the township. I don’t have anything to add.”
Pressed further, Coutanche said, “We have a communications policy, we have communications staff, we have people that speak on behalf of the township and that’s really been done and it was done pretty well.”
Asked whether public meetings were held prior to the decision to close the road section, he said residents gave deputations and wrote petitions.
“A lot of input was received before the moves that were made,” he said, noting he had spoken with concerned constituents.
Ross Gibson, an 89-year-old farmer who has lived in the area “all of my life,” hopes to see the road reopened, noting he farms hay and grain on land at the top of the hill.
“It makes it more difficult,” Gibson said.
Holden, who spoke with Coutanche and followed up in a letter, said she and other area residents have been left with a raft of unanswered questions.
They want to know which options were explored prior to closing the road, as well as the cost associated with keeping it open, had the township pursued that avenue.
Residents additionally want access to reports on the hill’s maintenance and “how much it would cost if maintained as it was, but in a better way,” she said.
Holden said a fellow resident on Line 6 presented the concerns to council in a July deputation, noting 18 homes are affected.
“He did a lot of work on it, he had gone and checked out costing of opening the road and crowning the road properly and maintaining it properly,” she said. “For the last four years, it has not been maintained properly.”
Hughes said gates would be installed at the top and bottom of the hill, with keys given to service workers and residents who require access to property on the hill.