New CASO Greenway Will Connect Communities from Windsor to Chatham Along the CWATS Network.
A new greenway is coming to Windsor Essex along the old CASO rail corridor. The Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA) announced it had acquired the 47-km abandoned rail corridor from CN and CP rail last Friday.
In an impressive show of multi-agency cooperation not easily achieved in regional active transportation projects, ERCA partnered with the County of Essex, Town of Tecumseh, Town of Essex and Municipality of Lakeshore to make the new offroad multi-use path a reality.
The CASO corridor runs east from just outside the City of Windsor boundary at 8th Concession Rd. When the new greenway opens, which may take 5-10 years, it will connect to the Trans-Canada Trail in Chatham-Kent. It will also link both Windsor and Chatham-Kent to Leamington through the Comber-Leamington Greenway. Additionally, at Essex, it will link to Amherstburg through the Cypher Systems Greenway and to the Chrysler Canada Greenway, which connects Windsor to MacGregor, Harrow, Kingsville, Leamington and the wineries of Lake Erie shores.
Active transportation users in Windsor-Essex already benefit from the County Wide Active Transportation System (CWATS), a network of 400+ km of off and on-road active transportation infrastructure in Essex County. CWATS is currently undergoing a Master Plan update, which, if approved, will increase the proposed system to 1000+ kms. In both its existing and proposed forms, CWATS is one of the most extensive active transportation networks in Ontario and provides communities numerous economic, health and quality of life benefits.
In recent years- and especially since the COVID-19 pandemic began – cycling tourism has boomed in Windsor Essex, particularly around municipal areas, wineries, and other unique attractions. This is in large part due to the existence and expansion of CWATS. Cycling has significant economic benefits for people, businesses and society – not to mention its many environmental benefits.
The CASO corridor is an important piece of how CWATS connects communities. The trail will provide cyclists from outside the region with easy access to Leamington, Point Pelee National Park, Kingsville, and the wineries and beaches along Lake Erie. It will also connect the rest of the province to Windsor and the US border, which will include bike and hike access on the upcoming Gordie Howe International Bridge.
This is a fantastic repurposing of existing infrastructure. The CASO rail line was one of the oldest freight and passenger routes in Southern Ontario, having been completed in 1873. Approximately 15 years ago, CN and CP Rail companies ceased operations, decommissioned the rail line, and left it to naturalize.
The opportunity to convert the rail line into an off-road multi-use path (or greenway) was first identified in the 2012 CWATS Master Plan. The CASO corridor is also important at the provincial level. It is included on the province-wide cycling network as a proposed off-road multi use path. Beyond active transportation, the corridor is also a valued connector of 21 natural areas, some home to endangered species.
Much work is still to be done to remediate, design and build the corridor to look similar to other existing Greenways in the county. But this land acquisition is the first step towards a bright cycling future.
CBC has a great video/ map showing connections to all the greenways HERE.