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Cedar route mulled for Trans Canada Trail

A group of trail enthusiasts is looking for support to link the Trans Canada Trail through Cedar and provide mid-Island communities an economic boost.

The Regional District of Nanaimo opened the first section of TCT between the City of Nanaimo and the Cowichan Valley Regional District in early 2001.

It begins in Colliery Dam Park, runs through the backwoods of Nanaimo and Extension to the Nanaimo River.

A bridge over the river is needed to  connect it with the south route along the Haslam Trail, Haslam Creek suspension bridge, Timberlands Road and into the CVRD.

The proposed Cedar link would use TCT connections to the Morden-Colliery Regional Trail through either Timberlands Road, Nanaimo River at Cassidy, where there is an existing footbridge, or Cedar Road at the Nanaimo Parkway.

“These are all general options,” said Laurie Gourlay, president of the Mid-Island Sustainability and Stewardship Initiative that is working with the ad-hoc trail group. “We’re flexible and want to work with all interested parties to make this work.”

The group would like to see the Cedar route eventually link to the new TCT in Tsawwassen via the Duke Point ferry terminal.

“It’s a huge tourism opportunity for Cedar, Nanaimo and Duncan that needs to be cultivated,” said Gourlay. “It will bring the local people out and bring the tourists in. We should be doing everything we can to boost that.”

Joan Michel, RDN parks and trails coordinator, said the demand for trails in Cedar is legitimate, but there are a number of issues.

“There’s no question a trail system through Cedar would be wonderful for residents and wonderful for tourism,” she said. “But one of the hardest things is access to land and another is dealing with water. There is no magic corridor ready to connect the trail to Cedar.”

Michel said the RDN is not playing one trail route against the other.

“It’s not and either, or – it can all be done, but not all at once,” she said. “Keep in mind in 1996 we had nothing.”

The Trans Canada Trail goal is to have the countrywide trail linked by 2017 for the nation’s 150th anniversary.

The RDN board has OK’d a feasibility study on bridging the existing trail at the Nanaimo River, but Michel said there’s no guarantee the bridge will be built by 2017.

“If we can get the bridge in place we can say we did our part for the national scheme,” she said. “But we’ve never built any major structure without significant grants from the provincial or federal governments and right now there is nothing out there.”

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