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Federal funding puts Trans-Canada Trail back on track
With financial assistance from the federal government, there is a push to complete the Nanaimo section of the Trans-Canada Trail by 2017, Canada’s 150th anniversary.
In January, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that the government will provide $1 of funding for every $2 raised by the Trans-Canada Trail Foundation for a maximum of $25 million over the next four years.
According to Clive Webber, Trans-Canada Trail B.C. trail coordinator, the only part of the trail that needs to be completed in Nanaimo is an area over the Nanaimo River, west of the airport, but options are limited.
A bridge was considered but the land is on private property and the owner isn’t supportive of the idea.
The likelihood of completing a bridge before 2017 is “diminishing every day,” Webber said, and other options must be examined if the trail is to be completed by the target. A meeting with the Regional District of Nanaimo is scheduled for March.
As it stands, the trail route in that area is more geared toward hiking, making it difficult to bike on the Extension Ridge Trail as well as Haslam Creek and the White Pine Trail south of Nanaimo River.
“The Trans-Canada Trail we have now is really for backcountry hiking and not something like family cycling. That’s why we’re looking at what are some other routes that we could possibly move the trail to that may be a little more central and provide more access,” said Wendy Marshall, regional district manager of parks services.
“What my thinking is, is that because it’s a hiking route ... it will probably remain a hiking route for quite a while, so if there’s a biking route for people cycling up the Island, that we can help build or utilize existing trail or whatever it might be, then a biking route would be great because then we have a hiking route and a biking route and both would be good long-term solutions,” Webber said.
He said he is interested in finding out more about the development of the E&N Rail Trail. There is a lot of value for tourists that head into the Cedar area, as there is much to see.
“There’s lots of good places for people to go and lots of interesting trails but the topography, crossing Haslam Creek and Nanaimo River, can be quite challenging because the number of crossings over that river is limited and the crossing using the highway isn’t very safe,” said Webber, adding there is only a thin pedestrian walkway on the east side of the highway bridge.
He said it is dependent on what the regional district wants to do and can be as simple as selecting an existing roadway that will make for an enjoyable route and if that were the case, would require the addition of signage.
“Because it’s the regional district, all the roadways are administered by the Ministry of Transportation but I have a good relationship with them and I don’t see that there would be a huge problem getting signs up along roadways,” Webber said, adding that his job and interest is developing non-motorized trails whenever possible.
“That’s what I want to talk to the [regional district] about, is what kind of trails are likely to be developed between now and 2017 and how can I help you do that? What kind of funding can I provide? What kind of assistance can I provide?” said Webber.
The Trans-Canada Trail enters the Nanaimo area around Timberlands Road and runs through areas such as the Haslam Creek suspension bridge, Colliery Dam Park, Buttertubs Marsh and into Bowen Park.