Scrap the paths, bring back the train


by admin on May 21, 2014

The Editor,


Tammy Scott (‘Plans for multi-purpose trail…’, May 14) should take her petition and maybe just shove it. The Wakefield steam train is a once-in-your-life tourist attraction for the region.

Where in the world can you ride a steam locomotive along a scenic railroad track from the downtown of a major city to a riverside village? Not many places, I would say. Tearing up the tracks for another bike path is just nonsense. The NCC has hundreds of miles of biking and hiking paths. Why would one tear up what was once a viable, revenue-generating national tourist attraction? The steam train is sitting idle. It would not take very much money to get it up and running. The tracks need to be cleaned up, and the culverts and drainage need to be repaired. Usually, you get two estimates before you have any sort of work done. Have there been two estimates of the costs involved to get the rail line ready to use for what it was always meant for – a steam train?

Tammy Scott should use some forward thinking vision and put her petition to rest. The community does not need more bike paths or hiking trails. The Gatineau Park has plenty. What the Chelsea and Wakefield community needs is a steam train.


Peter A. Ferguson

Gatineau, QC

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Chandra Gibbs May 22, 2014 at 9:19 am

I agree with Mr. Feruguson!!!!!

Bike path on train tracks issue keeps resurfacing and really we should focus on getting the train back on track.

With respect to the bikepath idea – Something that sounds great at first is usually not after you dig down into the details. This bike path will be hugely popular for non-Chelsea residents given the fact that there is a destination point (Wakefield) and an illusion of water access. Converting the railway corridor into a bike path is one of these – “let’s think this through” ideas.

Back when they flooded the river they moved the tracks to higher ground effectively cutting many yards in half. Many properties continue to be severed by the tracks. These homes have children playing in the yards, dogs, and their personal space/belongings next to the tracks. Some are seasonal cottages, closed for most of the year, and very vulnerable to such an influx of traffic.

There is no public space around for resting, gathering, picnicking etc. So those living along the tracks will see people trespassing to get to the river, resting on their front lawns and back yards and parking on their streets. Some homes are feet from the tracks! Imagine strangers walking through your yard to get to the path, let alone cycling through your yard every day on the path. There are a number of small Chelsea communities Tenaga and Cascades Club for example that are cut in half by the tracks. What would the Cascades Club do to ensure that its assets and recreational areas are preserved for its members and protected from vandalism from the constant trespassing of cyclists from outside the municipality? How will these small private roads cope with cyclists who opt to park along the bike route.

A little over 10 years ago, a similar campaign was started – “Trails on Rails” I think it was called. A group of us living along the tracks who suffer regular intrusions by those (often from Ottawa) looking to access to the river, walking through our yards, passing our children who are playing in our yards (even talking to them!), while we pick up their garbage, and live with cars constantly turning around in our driveways …. Well we looked into the implications of such a proposal and found out that first of all, the costs would be prohibitive. For example, it would costs millions to the community to build and maintain such a path and the last time I looked at the municipal budget figures Chelsea was heavily over indebted for a small community of ratepayers! We learned that there would be a requirement for garbage receptacles, lighting for safety, and latrines – along with other public service and safety requirements. This is obvious to those who live along the tracks and know there isn’t any public area for this sort of infrastructure other than our backyards. This is not the Gatineau Park after all – it is not a wooded area where one can set off to relieve themselves at any given point. I noted on the Canada Trails website that the Ottawa/Gatineau region has about 170 km of recreational pathways open to the public at large that are maintained and extend along the Rideau Canal, the Ottawa River and Gatineau Park. About 45 km of the pathways are part of the Trans Canada Trail. And on Sunday mornings during the summer 65 km of parkway roads in Ottawa and Gatineau Park are closed to motor vehicles so that cyclists and skaters can take over the roads. Do we need to pay for more?

For the people along the tracks, insurance companies told us that those who have water front property adjacent the tracks would have to assume all legal liabilities. Thus 5 foot fences (similar to that around swimming pools) would be the only way to address that liability and even then still having to assume a fair amount of risk.

Furthermore, road safety would be a huge issue as this location would require people to cross the Hwy to access the path. A recreational path would be a draw for children in the community who live on the other side of the highway. Given the state of the 105 the current Ottawa and Gatineau cycling clubs who travel in swarms along the highway would likely opt to use the newly paved bike path along the corridor – I believe that it may even be law that the cyclists have to use the bike path if none is provided along the highway.. Of course it makes me think that the current users of the corridor: pedestrians, children, elderly and dog walkers and property owners along the tracks getting to their docks etc will be pushed off the path and no longer consider it a safe option.

At the time we argued that the hwy 105 should be repaired and the original intention to continue the bike path along the shoulder should be priority particularly if commuting was a real driver for this sort of infrastructure.

Last weekend we were walking along the tracks, and there was a huge snapping turtle crossing it trying to get to the water, presumably after laying her eggs. I can’t imagine the impact so many people travelling along the corridor would have on the deer and other wildlife that use it. I am sad that the train may never run again and I am hoping that we can gat it up and running again. But until then and even if we cannot get the train back the tracks should continue to be pedestrian only and preserve it as a historic rail corridor (formally designated it as such). Alternatively, if all else fails the land could also be repatriated to the original properties from which it was expropriated. Some of those original families still own those properties.

avatar C. Lachaine May 23, 2014 at 4:54 pm

With all due respect sir, you should have a little more respect about other people’s incentives. Your choice of words reflect your obvious lack of courtesy. The train is nice but it is way too expensive to maintain. To my opinion the train makes rich people richer and obviously you are probably one of them. The problem with Wakefield is we have too many non-residents that like to interfere with local issues.

avatar Philip Jago May 23, 2014 at 5:13 pm

Right on. As a former employee of the railway on a part time basis, I anxiously await the return of the train, along with the 50,000 passengers a year that enjoyed it. I was only there for 4-summers but i encountered a number of interesting folks from around the world, including politicians, people, there was even the “Keeper of the Royal Philatelic Collection.” He rode the train on back to back weekends while in town to oversee the a special exhibit of the Queen’s stamp collection at the then Canadian Museum of Civilization. Entertainers have been on the train. On one notable occasion, the train was used for the filming of the movie Grey Owl, starring Pearse Bronson, think of the economic spinoff to the region. The train has been the scene of weddings, anniversaries, birthday parties, annual corporate events and school and group outings.

avatar Trevor Manning May 24, 2014 at 11:26 am

Dear Chandra Gibbs, its interesting that your post starts off with “I agree with Mr Fergusson”, yet your entire argument about protecting the environment, wildlife and the safety of children strengthens my resolve to not have the train come back! I think the risk of a child (or turtle) getting hit by a train is very real.

avatar Martin May 24, 2014 at 2:13 pm

@ editor
1 . The train does not help Chelsea. If it does please explain how. As a local I feel it was loud annoying and dangerous.
2. It will take millions to get the train running, people have tried for years. I’m pretty sure it’s dead.
3. It’s mean spirited to single out Tammy when there are over 2000 people behind this. Why try to bully people?

I have no idea about expropriated/repatriated land, that seems government and Lawyers business. And to leave a dangerous eroding decaying unused track as a historic designation makes me wonder why you propose that?

This coming from a Chelsea local who has even used the train.

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