4 years in the past, Lyn resident Andrew Melchers celebrated his college commencement with a two-and-a-half-month cross-Canada biking tour, having fun with the community of motorbike trails that spiderweb the nation.
“Once you bike throughout Canada, you don’t wish to keep on the Trans-Canada Freeway that a lot, so that you attempt to get on any single bike path which you could,” Melchers mentioned.
“In Ontario, communities have purchased up these rail easements and turned them into nice paths. They’re actually pleasurable to bike on and get off the freeway.”
However when he lastly reached his dwelling turf of Leeds and Grenville, the bike paths abruptly ended at Brockville after the Thousand Islands Parkway.
Pedalling the remainder of the way in which to St. John’s, Nfld., Melchers had a variety of time to assume: Wouldn’t it’s nice to have a path in Leeds and Grenville to hyperlink this space with the opposite paths that criss-cross the nation?
That was the genesis of his concept to repurpose the rail mattress of a long-abandoned Brockville-to-Westport railroad as a leisure path that will join the realm to the Cataraqui Path that runs from Smiths Falls to Strathcona.
Melchers, a civil engineer, stumbled throughout the Brockville and Westport rail mattress whereas working at a summer time job as a surveyor.
The outdated B&W rail line operated from 1888 till 1952 when it was deserted by its then proprietor CN Rail and sections of the rail line had been offered off to adjoining property house owners.
Melchers mentioned the 70-kilometre deserted rail line could be excellent for a leisure path.
Though a lot of the property has been offered, CN retains title to a few of it. At many locations alongside its path, the rail mattress remains to be seen despite the fact that the rails and ties are gone, he mentioned.
Utilizing his surveying background, Melchers has mapped out all the path and the place it will intersect with present trails. He has contacted CN to learn how a lot easement it nonetheless owns and the way a lot of the rail mattress could be viable as a path.
Melchers admits his concept of a recreation path remains to be extra of a dream than anything.
“I’m nonetheless within the very early levels,” Melchers mentioned. “I haven’t completed any feasibility research. There was no funding for this in any respect.”
Melchers mentioned his subsequent step is to get municipal companions on board. He has begun to strategy municipalities alongside the route – Elizabethtown-Kitley, Leeds and the Thousand Islands, Athens and Rideau Lakes – asking for assist.
After getting municipal assist, he hopes that the federal and provincial governments would possibly fund feasibility research for the undertaking.
Melchers mentioned he has no concept whether or not or not the native farmers who now personal the rail mattress could be prepared to promote or lease their elements of the path, or whether or not the senior governments would have an interest within the undertaking.
However biking tourism is a rising enterprise in Canada and lots of areas are attempting to capitalize on the development, Melchers mentioned. He famous that many different Ontario communities have been profitable in repurposing railway traces as leisure trails.
The Brockville-to-Westport path could be an enormous draw to cyclists and outside fanatics, together with snowmobilers within the winter, he mentioned.
The B&W railway has a vibrant historical past that dates again 150 years when residents within the Athens space started elevating the necessity for a rail connection between the Rideau and the St. Lawrence, in line with a well-researched account by the Heritage Place Museum in Lyn.
The primary fundraising efforts by the Athens (then referred to as Farmersville) residents failed however the concept was taken up a decade later by a swashbuckling railroader from New York named Robert G. Hervey.
In 1882, Hervey arrived in Brockville with large desires of working a railroad from Brockville to Westport after which on to Sault Ste. Marie.
Hervey started drumming up assist for his concept, visiting cities, townships and villages alongside the path to sweet-talk the locals into investing.
In the event that they invested, Hervey assured them a station in return for his or her cash. Thus the route went by Newboro, Crosby, Phillipsville, Delta, Lyndhurst, Athens, Glen Elbe, Forthton, Glen Buell, Seeley’s Bay and Lyn earlier than hitting Brockville, in line with the museum’s historical past.
By 1885, Hervey, backed by the Knickerbocker funding firm, had sufficient cash to construct the Brockville-Westport line, which was accomplished in 1888. (Hervey ran out of cash earlier than the Sault Ste. Marie leg may very well be constructed.)
The B&W grew to become an actual milk run. Earlier than the prepare, the one method to Brockville was by stagecoach on rutted trails. Westport kids travelled to highschool in Athens by prepare, Fridays had been “cheese day” to take cheese to market, Saturdays had been for hogs and cattle.
The railway did nicely till the flip of the century when it was offered and ultimately taken over by CN. After years of shedding cash, the road was closed in 1952.
CN offered the rails to Gillette, which turned the metal into razor blades.