A Chelsea woman has collected hundreds of signatures to petition the municipal owners of the railroad tracks from Gatineau to Wakefield to transform the corridor into a bike and recreation trail.
The steam train hasn't run since a part of the track was washed out in a 2011 landslide.
Movements to restore track have been stalled, as the project's estimated price tag ballooned from $5 million to $50 million. There were also concerns that the soil conditions around the track will invite another landslide.
Tammy Scott said she's been hearing the idea of converting the track to a trail since she moved to Chelsea four years ago. As a neighbour to the track and an avid cyclist, she supported the idea, too.
"I thought, 'Hmm. Maybe we need to start by showing that this is something that the community wants, and have kind of a bottom up petition," she said.
"The really fascinating thing is how quickly the petition has grown."
In a week, she has collected more than 800 signatures on the online petition.
"I think it's a great way to connect the community," she said.
Scott suggested the cost of converting the trail could be covered from the sale of the steel from the tracks.
Tracks already used as trail in winter
Alain Piché has helped groom the track for use during the winter for the last eight years. He's part of Sentiers Chelsea Trails, a group dedicated to maintaining and building trails to promote active living and the enjoyment of nature.
"The response, particularly in the last few years, has just been amazing in terms of the support of the community," he said.
The enormous cost of fixing the track is just one reason it should be lifted to make way for recreation, Piché said.
"We as a community have to look at the asset the corridor represents and figure out how to use it. Put it to its best use for residents. In my view, that's using it as a trail," Piché said.
The Outaouais Tourism Board has previously indicated that the steam train brings up to 60,000 tourists into Wakefield each year, generating nearly $10 million in revenues.
Piché and Scott said a new trail could bring in tourists in, too, who might stop at local businesses along the way.
"As I like to jokingly say, 'If we build it, they will come,'" Scott said. "Increasingly we want to stand for healthy living and we want to stand for green tourism, eco-tourism, so I think this just adds to the already rich options of people to come to Canada to visit."