Issue: Christmas 2020
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Next deadline: January 22


Uniacke Trails Association wants to turn rail line into a trail

Paul Palmeter · CBC News · Posted: Dec 24, 2020 2:05 PM AT | Last Updated: December 24

The rail line that runs between Windsor Junction and Windsor hasn't been used for several years. (Submitted by the Uniacke Trails Association)

Nova Scotia's Utility and Review Board has released a 28-page decision regarding complaints laid by the Uniacke Trails Association against the Windsor and Hantsport Railway.

The association was looking to have WHRC's operating license revoked for non-compliance issues, but their complaint was rejected.

"In the Board's opinion, the UTA is simply not the proper party to make a complaint in relation to these matters," wrote Richard J. Melanson in the decision that was posted to the UARB website on December 23.

It's been several years since any railcars have moved on the 50-kilometre stretch of rail line that runs between Windsor Junction and Windsor.

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Windsor residents want 'overgrown' rail line turned into trail

"We're very disappointed that the UARB dismissed our complaint," said UTA president Paul Smith. "We feel the Windsor and Hantsport Railway are not abiding by the terms in the Railways Act."

Smith's organization wants the unused tracks to be turned into trails. Smith said there is no way trains could run on the tracks as they are now and would require huge investment for them to be brought up to safe standards.

Caroline Smith and Paul Smith, the president of the Uniacke Trails Association, are pictured in 2018. (Shaina Luck/CBC)

The UARB decision said the Nova Scotia government, specifically the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, would be the proper group to file a complaint.

"Such a party does exist. DTIR, representing the Minister, no doubt has standing to initiate a complaint, or to cause a matter to be investigated. DTIR can represent the public interest at large and balance the object of promoting railways in the province with other considerations," stated the report.

That section of the report has Smith upset.

"It just feels like members of the public or an established group like us just don't have any rights at all," said Smith. "To dismiss the complaint because we don't have the right to file a complaint, that's really disappointing."

With no trains running over the tracks for several years, vegetation has grown over them. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

The owner of the Windsor and Hantsport Railway has recently stated he would like to see gypsum cars running on the tracks again.

"We've held onto the railway for the last 10 years in a care and maintenance mode with the full expectation and hope that the demand for gypsum would come back to the point that we'd be shipping it by rail to the port," Bob Schmidt said in an Oct. 22 interview from his office in Virginia.

Gypsum mining in Hants County has a long history dating back to the early 1800s. At its peak, the gypsum industry would have employed hundreds of people in the Windsor and Hantsport areas.

Efforts to reach Schmidt, who lives in Virginia, were unsuccessful Thursday.