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This article was published 22/10/2009 (4472 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
WINNIPEG should gobble up as many abandoned rail lines as possible to build more bike-and-pedestrian trails, Mayor Sam Katz says.
The popularity of the Northeast Pioneers' Greenway -- a 6.7-kilometre commuter path built over the former CPR Marconi Line -- has led Katz to believe the city must work more closely with railways to purchase unused lines as soon as they become available.
"If it's abandoned, the city should be grabbing it. They make ideal active-transportation routes," the mayor said Thursday in an interview. "Nothing is more obvious than what we did with the Northeast Pioneers' Greenway. If you go there you'll see it's used by all kinds of people for all kinds of reasons, on foot, on bikes (and on in-line) skates."
Winnipeg acquired what's now the Northeast Pioneers' Greenway in 2006, when philanthropist John Buhler bought the Marconi Line from the Canadian Pacific Railway for $1.5 million, flipped it to the city at the same price and kicked in $150,000 to help pave the trail, which runs through East and North Kildonan.
City documents show Buhler was able to whittle down the asking price from almost $4 million. Katz said the city could avoid tough negotiations in the future by working with railways to ensure the city always gets the first crack at abandoned lines.
The city's failure to secure unused lines in River Heights that eventually fell into the hands of real estate developers was "a major, major blunder," Katz said.
But the city has experienced rails-to-trails successes, most notably the community-led acquisition of Charleswood land that led to the creation of the Harte Trail, said Janice Lukes, executive director of the non-profit Winnipeg Trails Association.
Land acquisition is the most difficult part of creating any new trail, so a concerted effort by the city to pursue railway property will go a long way toward future trail-building efforts, she added.
"There are a lot of pieces we should be grabbing right now. There are little bits and pieces all over the city," said Lukes, who praised Katz for the unexpected policy statement. "That's fabulous. I'm practically having a heart attack."
Katz declined to say which abandoned lines the city plans to purchase next, claiming the identification of specific properties might drive up prices.
Winnipeg is in the midst of the most aggressive trail-building spree in the city's history. Over the past four years, the city has more than doubled the size of its network of multi-use pathways, bike lanes on streets and sharrows, adding 159.5 kilometres to an active-transportation network that now stands at 274 kilometres.