New Brunswick

Proposed trail project linking Saint John to St. Stephen gets $1M boost

The provincial government is investing $1 million in planning for a trail project in southern New Brunswick that would connect the Trans Canada Trail with the East Coast Greenway in the United States.

New trail system would connect Trans Canada Trail to East Coast Greenway in United States

The proposed trail from Saint John to St. Stephen would make use of the old shoreline railroad bed, where sections like this one are in remarkable condition. (Submitted by Robert Poirier)

A proposal to connect two countries by trail across the international border is a step closer to reality with the announcement of $1 million in provincial funding for a trail from Saint John to St. Stephen. 

The New Brunswick government announced on Wednesday that the money will be spent on planning for a project that would connect the Trans Canada Trail with the U.S. East Coast Greenway, in Calais.

It's a project that has been more than 10 years in the making for Robert Poirier, one of the people pushing for the idea.

"These two trails are dying to be connected," Poirier said Friday. "We are the nexus. St. Stephen is at the centre of it all."

The East Coast Greenway is one of the longest trail networks in the United States, running more than 4,800 kilometres from Key West, Fla., through most of the major capital cities along the U.S. Eastern Seaboard, ending "right here in our backyard in Calais," said Poirier.

"We have the longest trail network in the world in the Great Trail, running from St. John's to Vancouver, and St. Stephen is the missing link required to connect these two trails."

This area, just ouside the Garcelon Civic Centre along the banks of the St. Croix River, is what Robert Poirier considers to be the trail head of the proposed international route. (Submitted by Robert Poirier)

The proposed connector trail would also link other communities, including St. Stephen, Oak Bay, Saint Andrews, Pennfield and St. George, by means of highway access roads, community trail networks, secondary roads and routes 127 and 175.

Much of the trail already exists through an old Shoreline Railroad bed running from Saint John to St. Stephen, where sections remain in excellent condition.

"Many areas are overgrown, while others are perfectly rideable by mountain bike," said Poirier.

Robert Poirier says he has been drawn to finding and opening trails his whole life. (Submitted by Robert Poirier)
Poirier would like the trail system to follow a twinned approach, where there would be an on-road cycling route, and off-road option for families, children, and people who don't want to deal with roadway traffic.

"We're trying to make this as safe an option for families and bicycle tourists as possible."

Early stages

The $1 million will allow for conceptual work on the International East Coast Greenway Trail between St. Stephen and Saint John.

Dillon Consulting has been hired to assess the feasibility of the trail and how to go about connecting the smaller communities along the route.

"We expect in the individual communities, we might see senior citizens getting out more to enjoy the trails," said Poirier.

"I know some people who wont' go on the roads because they're afraid of being on the road with vehicular traffic, and people texting and things like that, so that's our main focus … we also see tremendous potential for cycle tourism.

"We think this one has legs, and the return on investment is tourism dollars is considerable."

The proposed trail would connect several communities in southern New Brunswick. (Submitted by Robert Poirier)
Poirier, who has been drawn to finding and opening trails his entire life, said the railroad bed section has particular historic significance.

It was used to transport American and Canadian troops to Cape Breton during the two world wars.

"It kept them on land as long as they could, and avoided German U-Boat traffic off the New England coast," Poirier said.

"So this rail bed has significance for both our American and Canadian veterans."

Tourism has been identified as a key opportunity for growth in the New Brunswick Economic Growth Plan, according to a release from the provincial government.

Money for the project is coming from the 2018-19 capital budget.

With files from Information Morning