The Friends of Rails to Trails Vancouver Island approached Cumberland council to support its vision to convert the E&N rail bed into a multi-use, non-motorized trail.
The main corridor is 224 kilometres from Victoria to Courtenay with a 64km branch from Parksville to Alberni. Additional links include the Lochside/Galloping Goose in Victoria (80 kms) and a 75 km stretch from Duncan to Shawnigan Lake.
“We see this as a unique opportunity to turn what’s largely an abandoned railway corridor into a thriving tourist attraction, and a safe local recreation and commuter corridor,” Wilf Worland said in a presentation to council May 23. “The current infrastructure for the rail continues to fall into disuse.”
The group suggests that existing train stations could be used as kiosks to direct tourists to accommodations and attractions. Moreover, rail and tie removal costs could be offset by salvaging steel rails.
“We think continuity and connection are very important,” Worland said. “Overall, it creates a more healthy lifestyle.”
The Island Corridor Foundation owns and maintains the E&N line. Via Rail halted passenger service in 2011 due to safety concerns. Local and senior governments have committed millions to restore the service, but as yet nothing has happened.
“We understand the Island Corridor Foundation has incurred debts, using the assets of the corridor as collateral,” Worland said. “That puts not only the continuity of the Island Corridor Foundation into question, but it also means the possible loss of the corridor.
“There’s not going to be a train,” added Worland, who feels the relatively small population along the corridor is not conducive to train service. “We have a corridor. Let’s do something useful with it.”
He notes, however, that a train track could eventually come into fruition.
For more information, visit www.fortvi.ca