The rail line from Parksville — looking towards Coombs — will soon be a hive of activity with the construction of a parallel gravel trail.

THURSDAY SPOTLIGHT: Connecting Parksville to the Goats on the Roof

The ultimate goal is to have a 290-km bike and pedestrian trail on the Island

The seven-kilometre Parksville to Coombs trail along rail project has been tendered and should be finished in the fall.

With a preliminary estimate of $3 to $4 million, the project is on track for considerably less, said Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) Chair Bill Veenhof. The winning bid came in at $2.69 million from David Stalker Excavating.

The board chose the bid at its committee of the whole meeting from five pre-qualified bids with completion in 150 days, compared to the highest bid at $3.74 million and 365 days. It has to be approved at the April 26 regular meeting of the RDN board.

“The overall tendered construction works consist of approximately 7,000 lineal meters (4.3 miles) of gravel trail with a three metre wide tread-surface, a gabion basket retaining wall at Romney Creek, paved approaches at two pedestrian rail crossings (crossings to be installed under separate contract by Southern Vancouver Island Railway), signage, bollards, railings, drainage improvements and various related appurtenances,” said the staff report.

The trail has been in the works for at least eight years and will run beside the unused E&N Railway from Parksville to Coombs as part of an Island-wide effort. It is not related to the ongoing debate over what to do with the rail line itself.

The RDN board green-lit the project after shuffling some budget priorities and receiving the latest cost update, said RDN Parks and Trail Coordinator Joan Michel.

The funds are mostly coming from the federal gas tax fund, with some money from the RDN’s parks budget and Community Works Funds freed up by area directors Joe Stanhope and Julian Fell.

It will follow 2009 design guidelines established with the non-profit Island Corridor Foundation (ICF), which owns the right-of-way, local governments and stakeholders. It will be three-metres wide, hard packed gravel from Springwood Park along the rail line to Station Road in Coombs, within sight of the Goats on the Roof tourist destination.

The goal is a 290-km bike and pedestrian trail along the entire length of the railway from Victoria to Port Alberni and Courtenay. Some districts like Victoria and Cowichan already have completed sections, but this will be the first in the RDN.

The Coombs trail will initially be a stand-alone segment, but it will connect with work being done by Parksville around the new water treatment facility, which will eventually extend the existing Top Bridge trail system to Springwood Park and total around

20 km.

A segment from Parksville to French Creek was dropped from the current plan and will now be a future phase. A 2009 study said there are 83 km of feasible rail trail corridor in the RDN, which would cost $28.7 million.

Visit www.rdn.bc.ca/cms.asp?wpID=3195 for more information, or search “RDN rail trail.”

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