Cardwell Street improvements could use cycling paths

Who knows the names of individual streets and roads within particular municipalities? No one, usually, except for the people who live in the towns and often even they are hard-pressed to know the name of an individual street in their own town, unless they happen to live on, or near, it.

The exception is Assiginack Township’s Cardwell Street, the roadway that runs from the intersection diagonally across from the southeast corner of the Manitowaning fairgrounds to the Wikwemikong border. It passes the former Manitowaning Lodge and the entry road to the Assiginack Curling Club and the Rainbow Ridge Golf Course.

It’s not very long, not quite three kilometres, but many Manitoulin people have at least a vague idea of where it is, not least of all for the reason that it topped the annual “Ontario’s Worst Roads” competition three years ago.

It’s become well known because it had deteriorated through use and, because it connects with Wikwemikong Way, that large First Nation community’s main thoroughfare, it is the only access in and out of Wikwemikong.

Wikwemikong council made the issue a prominent one with their neighbouring municipality, asking with some urgency that the road be upgraded and citing reasons of safety. That campaign began nearly a decade ago.

Suddenly Cardwell Street was in the news, often on the front page of this paper, and has remained so for several years as Assiginack council went to the extent of meeting provincial cabinet ministers on the issue at the annual Ontario Good Roads Convention and, failing to see much progress, Wikwemikong even investigated the possibility of building its own new road which would have connected directly with Highway 6.

That’s how one fairly short, but important street became locally famous.

In the way of these things, though, Assiginack Township has finally accessed the money it needs to properly rebuild and resurface this busy and now famous roadway without placing a large financial burden on its taxpayers. (It has also made patchwork improvements over the years.)

It’s a testament to the persistence of everyone concerned.

But is the story over?

We have also reported much on adding paved shoulders to provincial highways when they are being rebuilt and resurfaced in the interest of safety for the bicycling community and to encourage more cycling activity.

Cardwell Street, at least from its Manitowaning end down to the curling club and golf course intersection, would also be a good candidate for paved shoulders/bike lanes as the street is improved as this could be part of a useful cycling route that could also include the sideroad that runs past the length of the Rainbow Ridge Golf Course and over to McMullan Road and then across to the paved shoulders on Highway 6 and back to Manitowaning.

The sideroads are less well travelled and Highway 6 already has the paved shoulders.

This short stretch (about half) of Cardwell Street, with paved shoulders, would give the people of Manitowaning and visitors a safe and useful circuit, long enough to be a source of meaningful exercise.

Since Cardwell Street has become well-known on Manitoulin in a negative context, what a powerful message would be delivered should this much-aligned street be turned into part of a cycling route that would be the envy of other communities.

It’s worth thinking about.