Turn the rail line into a trail line


Sir: I read John Cryderman’s letter, “Stay out of investment biz, C-K,” with interest. I had a struggle with it because I’m certainly not a numbers man – ask my accountant who looks after my tax returns and my dear wife who looks after our bank accounts. But I am concerned about Chatham’s boondoggle of a railway.

I’m talking about the former CSX rail line. Councillors justified purchasing the rusting railway for $3.6 million (ugh!) by pointing to the potential economic development benefits that would come from owning a rail line running from Wallaceburg to Dresden to Chatham.

As far as I know, our economic development officials are still pounding the pavement trying to find an operator for a short track rail line owned by the municipality.

But although I can’t handle too many number puzzles, I have always been a gardener and a nature lover.  And I know that if a plot of land is deserted for a few years, nature has a way of taking over. It’s the way God works. After all, He controls nature. And this seems to be happening to our famous ghost railway,

At my age I’m not too steady on my old legs, but I understand groups of naturalists recently visiting the rail corridor and found a large pond in which there were nesting Canada geese, wood ducks, mallard ducks and turtles and an area where native prairie species were growing. In the space of a couple of hours the naturalists found more than 100 different plant, animal and insect species – many of them indigenous to the region.

Maybe we could form Chatham Natural Rail Trail. I think we should let the rails rust away in peace. If you started ripping them up, the natural part of the trail would be ruined.

A disadvantage of traditional track structures is the heavy demand for maintenance, particularly surfacing (tamping) and lining to restore the desired track geometry and smoothness of vehicle running. Shifting of the ballast, weakness of the subgrade and drainage deficiencies add to the degrading of the track. And the tracks themselves will soon rust into the ground.

I love railways but I also love nature. And I think our councillors should write off the $3.6 million (ugh!) and create the Chatham Natural Rail Trail, which will be enjoyed for generations.

Stephen Beecroft




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