Tammy Scott (May 14 edition) is right when she writes: “If you build it, they will come”. They will come to enjoy Chelsea’s best-kept secret: its 20 km of waterfront along the magnificent heritage Gatineau River.
If the train is a dead deal, then we have a rare opportunity to transform the railway corridor into a five-star, multiple-use path, linking Ottawa and Gatineau to Wakefield, via Chelsea, with all the socio-economic benefits of such an infrastructure.
We are the envy of other municipalities. We already own this corridor that connects five of the six wards of Chelsea. Moreover, that corridor is already zoned as ‘recreo-touristique’, ready to accommodate such a trail without having to go through the painful process of a zoning change.
The residents seem in favour and the municipality has joined forces with Sentiers Chelsea Trails and other stakeholders to develop a trail master plan for Chelsea. This is encouraging, and – one day – residents and visitors might have the pleasure of walking and cycling in a safe manner on what could become one of the best trails in Quebec.
While there is enthusiasm to transform the rail corridor into a recreational trail, let’s not forget that Hwy 105 is currently accommodating an increasing number of walkers and, especially, cyclists. These cyclists are at risk with the absence of paved shoulders and the brutal conditions of the asphalt. Hwy 105, in its present condition, is a tragic accident waiting to happen. It needs immediate attention.
The rationale for building a trail along the railway corridor should not be to move cyclists and walkers away from Hwy 105. It should not be a question of one or the other – Chelsea needs both. These two routes should play a strategic role in the trail plan. They would join and complement each other. They would become the ‘flagship’ of the trail network.