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Paving the way

Is revitalising the railway a path to economic development?

By Colin Heffernan

Yaffle.ca is Memorial’s online connecting tool. One of its most significant jobs is to provide a way for people from outside Memorial to ask for research help. With hundreds of community-suggested opportunities to choose from, your next project is just a click away. Here’s one:

The opportunity

For Neil Dawe, president of Tract Consulting, the revitalization of the old Newfoundland Railway bed on the Northeast Avalon is a key project for economic development and recreation in the region.

“The rail bed resurfacing should be viewed as both a recreation amenity and a vital piece of green transportation infrastructure for the region,” he said. “Providing a trail network that can take users from the Railway Coastal Museum in downtown St. John’s to the marina and future town centre area of Holyrood is a huge advance in the recreational and economic development opportunities on the Northeast Avalon.”

Mr. Dawe wishes to find out how feasible it would be to turn the old rail bed into a paved, alternative right of way for hikers, walkers, runners, and cyclists. As the rail bed runs adjacent to many communities on the Northeast Avalon, he feels that the economic impact of doing so should be a key piece in determining how this project could move forward. The economic development potential of the paved trail is strong for him.

He sees the potential for economic development in the paved trail.

“All across the Northeast Avalon, community assets are being developed that provide huge benefits. A paved trail connection in the region can bring users to marinas, interpretation centres, business hubs and parks. The catchment areas along the recreation corridor provide an opportunity for communities to change the outlook for business development in areas near the rail bed.”

A paved trail network diversifies the types of activities that can occur on the rail bed. A paved surface makes it easier for seniors to be active. It permits an easier biking experience for casual cyclists. During the winter months, it is much easier to clear snow from the trail, allowing users to access it year-round.

“The community assets that exist close to the rail bed, like the Railway Coastal Museum, Bowring Park, Centennial Square and the Manuels River Interpretation Centre, to name just a few, are attractive to users all over the region. Creating a secondary transportation network via paved rail bed can integrate and connect these assets, create economic opportunities, preserve existing green space, and encourage physical activity for a wide range of residents on the Northeast Avalon.”

The project

The local partners on the Northeast Avalon seek to engage Memorial University expertise to determine the feasibility of paving the old Newfoundland Railway bed from the museum in downtown St. John’s to the Holyrood marina. The local partners wish to understand what economic impacts a paved rail bed can have on the communities adjacent to the rail bed. The partners seek an understanding of the environmental impacts of revitalizing the rail bed, and an understanding of best practices for community development along the rail bed.

Interested in learning more about this project? The Harris Centre’s knowledge mobilization co-ordinator would be happy to tell you more. Contact Colin Heffernan at (709) 864-6115 or email colin.heffernan@mun.ca.

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