Proponents of rails-to-trails must consider the interests and concerns of abutting farmers arising from the conversion of a rail line into a recreational trail, regardless of its proposed use, i.e. motorized or non-motorized. Railway rights-of-way took routes that offered the lowest or flattest gradient. For this reason, railway corridors routinely passed close to farm houses and buildings. In some instances, the railway corridor passed between the house and barns!
The lands of an active railway corridor were private property, owned by the railway, and policed by them too. Only authorized railway personnel were allowed on the right-of-way. Railway police would charge trespassers. Farms cut in two by the railway corridor did not have to deal with people passing close to their house, barns, fields or livestock. The only disruptions from the railway corridor came from the trains themselves, and occasional railway personnel.
Rail line abandonment and the subsequent conversion of these former railway rights-of-way into recreational trails has changed that. It brings trail users effectively into the backyards of Ontario farms. Unfortunately, some trial users view the farmstead as a “public rest stop” along the trail, where they can stop and rest, get a drink of water, or use the bathroom. Services such as these are the responsibility of the trail operators, and if offered, must be provided on the trail property itself.
For more information, download the complete rails-to-trails document.