June 03, 2024

June 2024 Trail Connection Follow Up

Last June, I wrote about the need to connect various trails in southern Ontario. Since then, I have identified a fair number of developments which warrant a follow up. These include the Orangeville Brampton Railway trail conversion, the Simcoe County Trails Strategy, and the Humber Trail in Vaughan. Let’s go through these developments to see how they will address these trail gaps.

Orangeville Brampton Railway

On July 15, 2022, the Region of Peel – including Caledon, Brampton, and Mississauga – acquired the 51-kilometre Orangeville Brampton Railway from Orangeville to Streetsville in order to build a rail trail. The Town of Caledon has started public consultations on April 22, 2024 – including in-person events and an online survey – while the online survey will close on June 17, 2024. The proposed route is in Caledon's Active Transportation Master Plan (ATMP) below.

While some transit advocates would have been disappointed with Metrolinx not taking advantage of this rail line for future GO service to Orangeville (which was considered in the 1960's), this railway offers significant connectivity potential to the Grey County CP Rail Trail from Orangeville to Owen Sound, the Elora Cataract, and the Caledon Trailway. Caledon’s ATMP also calls for a short connection from the Orangeville Brampton Railway to Etobicoke Creek via Highway 410. Despite this potential, the project will require Phase 2 consultation for preliminary design, detailed design, and construction. If only there was a way of having both a rail line and trail running next to each other as with the West Toronto Railpath or Waterloo’s Spur Trail, that would be the ideal scenario.

Simcoe County Trails Strategy

Back in 2014, Simcoe County released their trails strategy pictured below. This strategy appears to address the three main connectivity issues I previously identified including Stayner to Barrie, Barrie to Bradford, and Randall to Tottenham. Work on the Barrie Collingwood Railway trail from Stayner to Angus started in Fall 2023 with rail infrastructure removal. Another website from the Ganaraska Hiking Trail expects the full project to be completed in late 2025. However, there is no information available on when Simcoe County expects this trail to go all the way to Barrie. Something which would also fill a gap in the Simcoe County Loop Trail.

While Google Maps’ biking layer only shows the Thornton Cookstown Trail (a.k.a. Trans Canada Trail) going as far south as 13th Line, it actually ends at 11th Line & 10th Side Road with an additional short segment crossing Beeton Creek. New Tecumseth’s Active Transportation Master Plan from February 2022 recommended filling the gaps from 4th Line in Tottenham to 10th Side Road within the medium term (2027 to 2031).

Regarding Yonge Street (County Road 4), Simcoe County plans to widen the road from the Barrie city limits to Shore Acres Drive (County Road 89) to four lanes which will include a multi-use path. On January 5, 2024, Bradford Today reported construction on a bridge between 8th Line and 9th Line in Bradford started last fall as part of the Bradford Bypass which would include a multi-use path along the east side. York Region is planning to start widening their part of Yonge Street (Region Road 1) this year including adding a multi-use path on the east side, while the Township of King has their own corridor study for the area.

Humber Trail in Vaughan

Back in 2021, the City of Vaughan and the Toronto & Region Conservation Authority completed a feasibility study connecting the seven-kilometre gap in the Humber Trail between the Boyd Conservation Area and Steeles Avenue. One part of this project from the Boyd Conservation Area to Langstaff Road (1.4 kilometres) got $2.3 million in funding from the federal government’s Active Transportation fund in March 2024. The City of Vaughan is also planning to improve Doctors McLean District Park starting next year to further improve connectivity in the area. Both projects will be connected via a multi-use path along Islington Avenue which will start construction in early 2025.

The part of Islington Avenue expected to gain a multi-use path is marked in red

Further south lies the proposed South York Greenway running adjacent to Highway 407 which could play a role in filling the remaining gap from Highway 7 to Steeles. While there appear to be some access roads owned by the TRCA and leased to the City of Toronto which go from Steeles to under Highway 407 when looking at a satellite view, it doesn’t align with the TRCA’s proposed trail alignment. Heading north, there is a longer-term vision in the TRCA’s trail strategy to extend the Humber Trail to the Nashville Conservation Area, Bolton, and eventually the Caledon Trailway. However, the existing Humber Valley Heritage Trail near Bolton is a hiking trail only.

TRCA's Trails Strategy Legend - Black = Existing / Pink = Conceptual / Green = Planned / Orange = Construction

Moving Forward

With the summer season under way again, let’s take every opportunity to enjoy some of these longer distance trails while still noting any connectivity gaps that need to be addressed. The latest findings regarding the Orangeville Brampton Railway, Barrie Collingwood Railway, Yonge Street in Simcoe County, and Vaughan’s portion of the Humber Trail show progress is being made in developing a region-wide trail network.

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