Let me state this up front: I love the train. As someone who has lived adjacent to the railway since 1977, I have a strong interest in its future. My wife and I loved the nostalgia of the train, the friendly toots and waves we received when it came, and the quiet privacy after it passed by.
But I also believe that the train is not likely to re-appear and it is therefore time to start considering future options in case the plug is pulled for good. For many years, I have been wary of the idea of a trail passing so close to our property – and our house is possibly the closest to the tracks of any house in Chelsea. But six years of skiing and walking the winter route along the railway has convinced me that using the corridor as a year-round recreational route used primarily by locals is not a bad idea. In fact, if done properly, it could be a very good idea.
Converting the railway into a year-round pathway with an unpaved surface would connect neighbourhoods from Chelsea to Wakefield. I’d love to see my grand kids cycling from their home in the southern end of Chelsea to our place in Cascades for a visit without having to ride along Hwy 105. And I think local residents of all ages would enjoy walking or jogging the trail in summer (as they do in winter), without having to risk sprained ankles as they step over railway ties.
John Trent sees this differently (Valley Voices, Feb. 12). He envisions a paved bike path that would be used predominately by hoards of cyclists from outside the region who would have no concern for walkers, seeking out private property to settle in for a picnic. I respectfully disagree with him on that score. Leave the pathway unpaved and road cyclists will not use it. I believe the overwhelming majority of road cyclists would much prefer a paved shoulder.
Cyclists from outside the area will stick to Hwy 105 (especially if shoulders are paved) and Chemin de la Rivière, in the same way that skiers from outside the community have continued to use Gatineau Park trails rather than the groomed tracks in Chelsea. Make no mistake: I would prefer to see the train return. But if there is no train, the true value in the corridor is as a year-round trail, primarily for locals, not tourists. Let’s forget about Mile Hill and the next Le Petite Train du Nord and think instead about the corridor’s potential to benefit our community.