By Bradley Turcotte –
Residents accessing Carlingwood Mall (CM) are raising concerns about an easement near the intersection of Saville Row and Lockhart Avenue they say is treacherous to transverse during winter months and in bad weather.
The easement lies where Lockhart Avenue ends, which is not an official entrance to CM. However, mall patrons create a desire line into the parking lot, rather than walk approximately 200 meters to the entrance near the YMCA.
The Wikipedia definition of a desire line (also known as a desire path, social trail, cow path, goat track, pig trail or bootleg trail) can be a path created as a consequence of erosion caused by human or animal footfall or traffic. The path usually represents the shortest or most easily navigated route between an origin and destination.
Honeywell Avenue resident Linda Charbonneau says she first spoke out about the desire line over a decade ago.
Linda hasn’t fallen herself trying to navigate the easement but says she’s seen seniors struggling at the location.
“It’s ridiculous because the seniors are in a direct line to go to the drug store. Anytime that I’ve brought it up with the shopping mall they don’t respond,” Linda says. “I’ve sent emails and mentioned it at the customer service desk… I’m not crazy, there are actually people falling all over the place.”
Carlingwood Retirement Community (CRC) is located near CM on Lockhart Avenue. CRC’s marketing manager Alaina Rossiter did not return multiple requests for comment.
Carlingwood Community Association president, Alecia O’Brien, says she once careened into the three-way intersection with her stroller after attempting to manoeuvre the icy desire line.
This close call prompted Alecia to bring together locals and CRC staff to persuade CM and Bay Ward City Councillor Mark Taylor to create an official entrance.
A meeting with residents, Alecia and CM general manager, Lucie Duguay, took place in September 2014. Another meeting occurred in 2015.
“To say that the meeting was absolutely pointless and went nowhere would be an understatement,” says Alecia. “Lucie basically told us that the easement was not Carlingwood’s concern and that people using this path should not be doing so… The mall is claiming that there is an income loss potential… They don’t want to lose out on the parking spaces which are profit in a shopping center. They said it was a litigation nightmare or an insurance nightmare. Their insurer was preventing them from creating another entry into the car park.”
Lucie Duguay declined a telephone interview, claiming it is against CM policy.
Coun. Taylor admits the issue can be murky, as the City and CM each partially own the grassy patch at the center of the controversy. He says the City has examined the issue, and that the City could “flatten out the grade” but full cooperation from CM is essential.
“We’ve approached it a couple of times with the mall. They’ve looked into it and, although they are not saying they would never do something, they are not in a position where they feel they can move forward with it. Until there’s something on… [the mall’s] end, we won’t build a path that just goes nowhere. That doesn’t work well from a pedestrian safety point of view,” he says.
The City connected CM to Public Works, says the councillor, although he “[doesn’t] know what kinds of discussions they had about programs available.”
CM is a good community partner, he maintains, as they support the community in many ways, including programs aimed at seniors.
“I definitely encourage people to use the sidewalks that we currently have in place, that are plowed, winter maintained, salted… rather than try to climb up an embankment,” Coun. Taylor adds, “It’s certainly much safer to use the paths we have there… but I respect the fact that people want to walk in a straight line.”