To Be or Not to Be? - The Ottawa Valley Rail Trail

A proposed 296-km corridor will connect communities from Smiths Falls all the way to Mattawa, creating a whole new world of opportunities for ATVing and snowmobiling in Ontario. But will it actually happen?

Photos courtesy of the Friends of Ottawa Valley Recreational Trail.

Things are moving ahead! 

Check out the Ottawa Valley Rail Trail Facebook Page to stay up to date on developments and to find out how you can support the trail.

The recent announcement of the approval and opening of some sections of the 296-km Ottawa Valley Rail Trail, connecting Smiths Falls to Mattawa, Ontario, is exciting news for ATV and snowmobile users as it’s been designated a multi-use trail, meaning it will be available for most trail users, pedestrians, bikes, dog sleds, horses, and best of all, ATVs and snowmobiles. 

Towns concerned about ATVs and snowmobiles are being given the option to create "bypass" trails to go around their towns, which they can use to divert motorized traffic around certain areas, but the townships will need to build and pay for the alterations themselves. This will allow for the continuity of the trail, end to end for most users, and allow for pedestrian and bike trails in denser areas. A decent compromise for those affected.  

Some of the trail should be officially open in 2017. There are areas that need grading, modifications and bridge reconstruction first, much of which is expected to be completed in 2018 and 2019. This trail will provide a welcome connection between several ATV clubs: VMUTS in Mattawa, Renfrew County ATV ClubRideau Lakes ATV Club, Ottawa Valley ATV Club and the Eastern Ontario Trails Alliance which is also linked with the Renfrew County ATV Club. 

OFSC clubs will also welcome the opening of the OVRT, as rail trails make great connector or "backbone" trails that connect clubs and lead to more challenging forest trails if desired. 

RCATVC is the biggest benefactor of the new trail, with 217 km (a huge addition of trails to any club!) within the Renfrew county borders. I spoke at length with Teresa Gamble, the president of the Renfrew County ATV Club, who was very helpful with background and details of this new project and provided me with various documents that helped immensely. Thanks for your help Teresa!  

The involvement of local powersports clubs, while not welcomed by all, particularly in a few towns that the trail goes right through, are a very important part of creating trails like this. They are the ones with the volunteer base willing to go out and fix trail problems, clear felled trees, etc. They also have real funds to contribute to making the whole thing work. No other trail user group is able to contribute to the trail system like they are, and they have been very clear that they’re more than willing to co-operate with any other trail user group on any issue. That includes event coordination and support, even for non-powersports events such as dogsledding, which requires extra attention and clear trails. This is an important benefit for users of the trail no matter how they use it. 

A portion of the Ottawa Valley Rail Trail running through Almonte, Ontario

I look forward to riding this new trail when it’s finished. Check back here for updates on which sections are open and any other issues that arise with this massive and undertaking. 

For more information, read the County of Renfrew's overview of the plan.

About Adam Columbus

Adam is the former webmaster for the Algonquin West ATV club webmasters. He lives north of Huntsville, Ontario with his family. He is also an ex-business owner from the GTA who is now semi-retired.

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