Editorial: The Shrinking Path

Neighbours and nature have encroached on the walking and bicycle path for over 50 years. Though the gravel path is about five metres (16 feet) wide in most places, the town, in fact, owns a 30-meter wide (99 feet) swath of land inherited from the railway that ran from Foster and along the lake for more than 100 years. 

In the late 1970s, Canadian Pacific closed the line and tore up the tracks. The ownership of the right of way passed to the province, which did nothing with it. People started walking and cross-country skiing on the abandoned railway line, but in 1989, the Town of Brome Lake paid the province one dollar. The condition was that the eight-plus kilometres be used for recreational purposes. 

Neigbours have encroached on the right of way, moving fences closer to the walking path and even planting hedges along it. There is no doubt that the town still owns the right of way and, several years ago, gently reminded property owners of the facts. 

Nature has spread trees, in particular, the fast-growing weed tree the Manitoba Maple, in the open spaces on either side of the path, deer and other wildlife shelter in the overgrowth. The path is a victim of its own success. There is a dangerous mix of walkers, dogs and bicycles. The path is a bicycle, Highway 10. Bicycles race along the path as fast as they do on the road. Almost none of them have bells. A collision between a bike and a walker would cause serious, if not fatal, injuries. The current situation is an accident waiting to happen. Some local residents are afraid to walk on the busy path on weekends and holidays when the sun is shining.

The town is well aware of this, and there is a counter on the path to register the volume of bike traffic. Back to the wide right of way. There is an opportunity to widen the path in many places. Speaking to one councillor, we learn the town is aware of the dangers posed to the walking public. Widening would not be easy, but it could provide a solution to the traffic jams on the walking and bicycle path.