The Prescott and Russell Recreational Trail is here to stay.

On November 9,  VIA Rail Canada (VIA Rail) and the Prescott-Russell Recreational Trail Corporation (the corporation) announced an agreement in principle where the corporation will acquire the Trail’s existing infrastructure on land that has previously been owned by VIA, the federal crown corporation responsible for passenger rail service.

The future of the trail had become uncertain ever since the previous lease agreement for the trail land between the United Counties of Prescott and Russell (UCPR) and VIA Rail had expired on June 30, but was then given a short-term extension to August 31. UCPR staff, council, and the trail corporation had been negotiating a solution for several months.

The land the trail follows is VIA’s former M&O (Montreal and Ottawa) Subdivision. Before it was under VIA ownership, the line was part of the Canadian Pacific (CP) Railway. Train activity on the right-of-way was discontinued in 1986. In 2006, the inactive stretch was turned into the recreational trail. 

“This agreement will turn a piece of railway heritage into a thriving green space for locals and for outdoor enthusiasts from everywhere,” said VIA Rail Chief Operating Officer Dominique Lemay.

“The Recreational Trail brings invaluable environmental and social benefits to the many communities along it. With the agreement VIA Rail reconfirms its commitment to community sustainability in Canada.”

 Trail Corporation President Serge Lalonde believes the agreement will secure the future of a trail as a recreation destination.

“Once it becomes official, this strategic acquisition will ensure our organization can continue to provide our users with a premium outdoor experience on a well-maintained, expertly developed and widely promoted trail. We want to help the Trail reach its full potential and make it one of the main outdoor attractions in the area.”

UCPR Warden Stephane Sarrazin has also welcomed the agreement as a way of ensuring the trail’s long-term future.

“I am confident that the proposed solution will support the longevity of the Recreational Trail and give people in Prescott and Russell the chance to enjoy the Trail for years to come. I would like to recognize the amazing collaboration between the United Counties of Prescott and Russell, the Prescott-Russell Recreational Trail Corporation and VIA Rail on this project.”  

 The 72-kilometre trail at St-Eugene and crosses the towns and villages of East Hawkesbury, Champlain, The Nation, Alfred and Plantagenet, and Clarence-Rockland. It also connects with Rigaud, and Ottawa.

Press release with files from Reid Masson