Vancouver Island Rails to Trails Event

The Vancouver Island Trail (formerly VISTA) and Friends of Rails to Trails Vancouver Island (FORT-VI) held an “information event” on Sept 15th at Shawnigan Lake. The goal was to galvanize the strength of a proposal to convert the E&N rail corridor from Colwood to Courtenay on Vancouver Island to a multi-use trail.

It was an outdoor event so weather was important. When I woke that morning to sheets of rain coming down, I pondered how easy it would be to cancel the event. We were fortunate to be able to relocate to a pavilion about a block from the park that provided shelter from the elements. While we’d hoped for hundreds of enthused cyclists and hikers, we did have about 55 attendees. This was an achievement, given the weather!

Repositioning signs to a nearby pavilion to stay out of rain (photo: Peter Durnford)

A number of Shawnigan residents, led by Ian Anderson, came together as a community to make the event a success. They supplied free drinks, prizes, a great musician, and a groundswell of support that made the event a success.

This part of the rail corridor by Shawnigan Lake traverses a stately old-growth copse of trees that would have to be removed to accomplish the Regional District’s goal to have a trail beside the rail. In addition, a trail beside the rail in this area would require filling marshy areas that are important bird habitats. Notwithstanding the huge cost of restoring the badly neglected corridor for rail and the substantial subsidies that would be required to run it, a trail on the rail would save huge taxpayer dollars and be more used then a once daily train.

Ken Milbraith, president of the Vancouver Island Trail, explains how the trail on the rail would help fill a gap in the spine trail. (photo: Peter Durnford)

While numerous consultant studies have pointed out that there isn’t adequate population at this time to make rail viable, we still have politicians pushing for it.

If you haven’t already visited our website, please do so soon as we have more activities planned. A rally in the Comox Valley is next on the agenda.

If you are interested in helping with this initiative, please email us as volunteers are much needed. In the meantime, if you are a Vancouver Island resident, please ask your municipal candidates whether they support a trail ON the rail or just beside it. We hope that you’ll find the logic of using the railbed a good one.  This is the time to hold our politicians’ feet to the fire! Let’s ask our politicians the extent to which they will support many environmental issues.

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