OTTAWA -- A popular trail near Cornwall is at the centre of controversy this week, as maintenance along some areas of the path far outgrew its boundaries.

"It was gut-wrenching. Absolutely gut-wrenching," said South Glengarry resident Bruce Kennedy, describing what he saw over the weekend along the Peanut Line Trail.

"On Saturday, we saw an excavator working here, taking large portions of the tress along the trail out. We asked the operator what he was doing. He said he was doing some brush work within six feet of the edge trail, but it was clear more was being taken," said Kennedy.

The Peanut Line Trail runs along an old railway line from Boundary Road northeast of Cornwall into the province of Quebec, with a length of 40 kilometres. It's a popular path for ATVers, horseback riders and hikers.

Built between 1913 and 1915, the railway line ceased operations in 1995, and the township of South Glengarry took over responsibility of the trail in 2009.

"I grew up here. My family has been here 200 years on this farm. I played on this trail when it was a train line and, more recently, as it became a recreation trail. This has become a great resource for the public. We walk it every day," Kennedy said.

"And now that we are in the middle of a pandemic, I just can't imagine what it's like for people to come out here and see what this looks like now," Kennedy added. "People are looking for opportunities to get outdoors and enjoy nature, be in the wide open air and not see the devastation that they see here."

Karen Kinloch, a neighbour of Kennedy's, was also upset.

"Sadness. It's wrong, devastating," she said, describing what the trail once looked like.

"Just to come back and walk and feel good with nature, one with nature," Kinloch added.

Kennedy shared a before and after picture of the trail to his Facebook page on Sunday and it quickly went viral, with over 150 shares.

The picture he took on Sunday showed how much the trail had been trimmed, well over the six feet that was planned.

**UPDATE Tuesday April 27** Dave Robertson, Fire Chief and Acting Director of Parks and Recreation for the Township of...

Posted by Bruce Kennedy on Sunday, April 25, 2021

"It is interesting to see the power of social media. I had not expected to get the result that I did. It's clear residents are very upset about what has taken place here," Kennedy said.

The post was updated on Monday, after a representative form the township met with Kennedy about the state of the trail and admitted that a mistake had been made.

Township of South Glengarry CAO Tim Mills agreed on Tuesday.

"There were trees where we wouldn't have wanted them cleared, so was there a mistake made in some areas? Yes definitely," Mills said outside the township office in Lancaster.

In a statement released on Monday, the township noted that maintenance was happening along the Peanut Line Trail and that the township will begin 'extensive community consultation' on a trail master plan in the near future, including a study of the Peanut Line, which was passed in council on April 6.

But the release stopped short of admitting the mistake, or placing blame.

"I thought it might be busy for a few days and we would hear from a few constituents and some council members that our council is very involved with the community, and I know they got a lot of calls," Mills said.

"I thought that people would have a right to be disappointed and some were upset, we acknowledge that, but at the same time we're addressing it and we're ready to work with the community and move forward on the peanut line," he added.

When asked about the possibility of planting seedlings along parts of the trail that were over-cut, mills agreed it was a 'possibility' and 'not a bad idea.'

"We're committed to the Peanut Line. It's a gem," Mills added. "It's an excellent recreational facility for multi-users and when we do the study you can be sure we'll be engaging everyone, both inside the municipality but also outside, we have a lot of people who come to South Glengarry and we'll be assured to have lots of consultation."

While Kennedy is happy with the admission of a mistake, he feels residents should have been notified before maintenance began.

"What the plan was, what the scope of work was and also for the township to have supervised what was going on here." Kennedy said. "How did it end up like this? I think their first task here would be to clean up the mess that they have created."

"The township has an absolute responsibility to maintain this properly," Kennedy added. "To oversee any work that is commissioned to be done on it and to ensure that the future use of the trail represents the best interests of the residents of South Glengarry."

He's disappointed that large mature trees planted around the time rail operations ceased in 1995 are now gone, and also at the media release for not admitting the mistake.

"There is absolutely zero accountability (in the release), that this is not what was planned. They are still talking about routine maintenance, they are talking about a little bit of brush work, and what you see here is not a little bit of brush work," he said. "I will never see trees this size along here again. It's not going to happen in my lifetime, and that's very sad."

Kennedy hopes the township has learned a valuable lesson through all of this as well.

"Don't go along and do something like this to a valuable natural resource without consulting with the residents," he said.