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From Rail Lines to Hiking Trails

Partnering with communities to find new pathways from old properties

Photograph - Arrow Lands snowy roadway

During the past year, IO has facilitated the sale of over 900 acres of abandoned rail lands to local municipalities at fair value. Happily, the local municipalities purchasing these lands are ensuring their continued public recreational use so that residents and visitors can continue to enjoy them for years to come.

Infrastructure Ontario is committed to creating value for taxpayers through the sale of surplus or underutilized public assets. As such, IO engaged with communities across Ontario to coordinate the sale of Abandoned Railway Right-of-Way or ARROW properties. These lands are former Canadian National Rail lines that brought goods and supplies to rural and urban communities across Ontario. Prior to the advent of transport trailers, railway was the primary mode used for transporting goods and supplies across our vast province. These lands, no longer in use for their original purpose, have morphed over time to become part of local trail systems. With the sale of these lands, IO has supported the continued use of these recreational trails for these communities:

  • Last March, the City of Quinte West acquired the Lower Trent Trail, which extends 17 km from Trenton to Glen Ross and follows along the scenic Trent River, where it is part of the Trent Severn Waterway.
  • Further to the north near Bancroft, the Hastings Heritage Trail was acquired this past September by Hastings County. The 156 km long trail, used by hikers, horseback riders and cyclists, stretches from Glen Ross to Lake St. Peter and is open to annual permit holders.
  • In February 2023, IO concluded the sale to York Region of 65 acres of land extending between the towns of East Gwillimbury and Georgina that comprise the Sutton Hill Trail, known locally as “Zephyr Rail Trail”. As the rail line was abandoned, the trail has been used year-round by residents and visitors to York Region: in the summer months, hikers and mountain bikers frequent the trail, and in winter, cross-country skiers, and local snowmobile clubs.

Aerial Photograph - Arrow Lands roadway

IO’s management of the disposition of these ARROW lands to local municipalities is a significant step in meeting the province’s goal of maximizing Ontario’s valued real estate, seeking opportunities to use it in the best and most effective ways, and supporting the government’s commitment to footprint reduction by enhancing and selling surplus assets. 

We are committed to finding innovative solutions by working collaboratively with both the public and private sectors to find the best result for Ontarians. IO’s work on surplus properties takes many forms – from disposition of lands to municipal partners, to spearheading of social purpose projects, each is an opportunity to engage local stakeholders and to fulfill our mandate and demonstrate our diligence and resourcefulness in working through all the required steps to achieve the best results.