Essex Region – In late December, following years of negotiations, the former Canada Southern Railway (CASO) section that stretches 47 kilometres through Essex County was successfully protected for public use, thanks to a partnership between the Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA), the County of Essex, Town of Tecumseh, Town of Essex and Municipality of Lakeshore, and with generous funding support from Environment and Climate Change Canada. The former CASO Rail Line ceased operations approximately 15 years ago, and dignitaries from across the region joined MP Irek Kusmierczyk at ERCA’s Annual General Meeting to announce the acquisition.
The CASO corridor dissects all major watercourses which outlet to Lake St. Clair. This corridor has a significant regional watershed management value related to potential mitigation of natural hazards for flooding and drainage issues.
Once funding has been acquired to develop this property into a trail system, it will connect Chatham-Kent trails to Leamington’s Greenway, the Chrysler Canada Greenway and the Cypher Systems Group Greenway and the Herb Gray Parkway trails – ultimately completing the long anticipated, multi-use trail loop through the region. In addition, this system will support the County Wide Active Transportation System (CWATS) initiative of the County of Essex.
The railway ties, steel rails, and other equipment were removed from the property about 7 years ago, and the property has since naturalized. In its current state, it is a mix of former rail ballast, meadow, shrub thickets, wetlands, and woodland/forest. It provides a unique habitat that is preferred by certain endangered species such as the Eastern Foxsnake. Federal and Provincial recovery strategies have noted abandoned rail corridors as important areas to protect. In addition to protecting Species at Risk, this corridor provides for long-term protection of the only habitat linkage between existing fragmented forests and wetlands. In total, there are 21 separate natural areas that are connected through this acquisition.
The Essex Region Conservation Authority is a public sector organization established by the Province of Ontario in 1973 and governed by local municipalities to deliver programs and services that further the conservation, restoration, development and management of natural resources in watersheds in the Windsor-Essex-Pelee Island region.
“Local conservation efforts are at the forefront of Canada’s nation-wide campaign to protect 30 percent of lands and waters by 2030. The hard work and dedication of the Essex Region Conservation Authority are making a valuable contribution to that goal. I congratulate all partners for this latest land acquisition, which represents years of perseverance and an important piece of the puzzle for conservation in Southern Ontario.”
~The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada
“On behalf of the Essex Region Conservation Authority, we are so grateful for this partnership which protected this corridor for its habitat and hazard mitigation value, and for future public use. We are thankful to the Towns of Tecumseh and Essex, the Municipality of Lakeshore, the County of Essex, and Environment and Climate Change Canada, and look forward to continuing to work together to raise the funds needed to develop this abandoned rail line into a multi-use trail that will benefit our region for generations to come.”
~Tania Jobin, ERCA Chair
“The County of Essex is proud to be a partner in protecting for public benefit this valuable corridor connecting natural areas and community hubs. This investment will enhance the quality of life in our region for generations to come.”
~ Hilda MacDonald, Warden, County of Essex
“The conservation of the CASO line is exciting news for Windsor/Essex. Being able to connect the Tecumseh community to Essex, Lakeshore and Chatham-Kent’s existing trail systems will be great for our residents to stay active, not to mention the long list of environmental benefits. Tecumseh is looking forward to this project moving forward.”
~Mayor Gary McNamara, Town of Tecumseh
“The acquisition of the CASO rail line corridor is a huge win for our region. The prime location in Essex Centre will increase active transportation and allow greater access between Heritage Park, the ERCA Greenway, and Hunter Park.”
~Mayor Sherry Bondy, Town of Essex
“This trail will be a phenomenal addition to Lakeshore’s active transportation assets, and we are thrilled to join our neighbours on the amazing network of greenways that will truly connect our region. For Lakeshore, this is not just an investment in physical infrastructure. It’s an investment in mobility and the future of our communities; in greenspace and natural habitats; and in the health and wellness of our residents. This investment will benefit our communities well into the future, and I’d like to thank all the partners who made this opportunity possible.”
~Mayor Tracey Bailey, Municipality of Lakeshore