The trails of the Headwaters area are a recognized local treasure. In our community consultations with over 300 residents and community leaders, considerable energy was generated by the idea of further developing area trails. In researching the impact of trails development, we found that investment in trails development had multiple worthwhile impacts for our communities. For example:
- Trails are a significant tourism and recreation magnet which support local economies
- Trails impact community health by providing an accessible and affordable means of physical activity for people of all ages
- Trails foster an appreciation of the environment and a desire to conserve our natural green space
Rails and Trails: An Option for Headwaters
Recent discussions regarding the sale of Dufferin’s Rail Line have led us to research the viability of establishing a trail beside an active rail line. Our research confirms that trails beside rail lines are very safe and now exist in every province in Canada. Some key facts include:
- A comprehensive study conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation found that Rails with Trails are just as safe as other trails Some people have quite rightly suggested that cycling on a trail beside a rail line is likely a lot less dangerous that riding on a busy roadway and yet that happens all the time.
- Some places in the U.S. have established trails beside rail lines that have multiple, high-speed commuter trains as well as freight trains running on them.
- The CP Railway has acknowledged that trails beside active rail lines can actually be an important “trespasser reduction strategy”.
- Many — but not all — rails with trails have some kind of fencing or other barrier — More than 70 percent of existing RWTs utilize fencing and other barriers (vegetation, vertical grade, walls, and/or drainage ditches) for separation from adjacent active railroads and other properties. Fencing style varies considerably from chain link to wire, wrought iron, vinyl, steel picket, and wooden rail.
If you’d like to learn you’ll find lots more information below, including:
- A series of photos showing various Canadian examples of Rails with Trails (My personal favourite is the example from White Rock B.C.)
- A brief summary of highlights from what is, by far, the more comprehensive study on rails with trails that was conducted in 2002 by the U.S. Department of Transportation
The link to the full report is here:
- A Comprehensive study done by the Rails to Trails Conservancy Report in 2000 which reviewed 61 trails along active rail lines
- A short article by the consultants of a comprehensive Department of Transportation study that looks specifically of the compatibility of trails and high-speed rail — which concludes is possible to manage safely.
Want to Know More?
We welcome your involvement! Keep up-to-date on the progress of our project, sign up for our e-newsletter. Join our trail volunteers and explore our Connect page for tangible ways for you to get involved.