Wednesday’s news that $1 million in Bike BC funds will help complete the E&N Rail Trail came as welcome news to those who have worked on this project for years.
Capital Bike and Walk Society executive director John Luton, a longtime cycling advocate, told the Gazette he’s been working toward getting this east-west cycling connector done for almost 20 years. Certainly not alone, as the Town of View Royal and Capital Regional District worked well together to complete the section through the West Shore municipality and connect it to the Galloping Goose Trail.
The significance of finishing off the missing link, between Hallowell Road in View Royal and Maplebank Road next to the Songhees Wellness Centre on First Nations land, was not lost on Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Todd Stone, who happily announced the provincial influx of cash. He pointed out that completion of this roughly east-west trail would “finally” allow West Shore cycle commuters a safe, more direct route to Esquimalt.
The trail will not run alongside the train tracks, as in View Royal. Cyclists and other path users will continue to be routed down Hallowell to Admirals Road, then along Admirals to a point where the trail cuts down through Esquimalt Nation land to avoid the hill. Some significant safety adjustments must be made to keep cyclists from clashing with traffic on Admirals – a major commuter route.
A more subtle adjustment, one of mindset, will need to be made in how governments of various levels work with First Nations, especially when it comes to projects encroaching not only on their traditional territories, but those pockets of land where they currently live.
Esquimalt Chief Andy Thomas hinted at some of those challenges, saying, “it’s taken 150 years to get this far.” The negotiations for the bike path have been a part of the relationship building, he said, adding “It’s taken both sides to learn how to work together.”
We hope that all sides find a way to work together to finish off a trail that will enhance safety and potentially build an even stronger bridge between First Nations and those who wish to share the use of their land.