With the Regional District of Nanaimo voting to support Friends of the Rails to Trails Vancouver Island in its movement to convert railways to multi-use trails, the City of Nanaimo could follow suit. (News Bulletin file)

City, Regional District of Nanaimo voice support for Rails to Trails

Municipality and regional district board support initiative to convert E&N rail to multi-use trail

A City of Nanaimo councillor hopes the municipality follows the lead of the regional district and supports conversion of a section of E&N rail line to a multi-use trail.

Friends of the Rails to Trails Vancouver Island, a grassroots group, seeks to convert rail lines on Vancouver Island to recreational trails.

The Regional District of Nanaimo recently voted to correspond with the Island Corridor Foundation, the non-profit established to manage the rail corridor, to voice support for transforming rail from Parksville to Courtenay.

At a City of Nanaimo council meeting Monday, Coun. Bill Bestwick, also an RDN director, gave notice of a similar motion in support and requested the foundation assist the group in achieving the goal.

The foundation has been pushing for track repair funding, but Bestwick doesn’t see any issue with getting the foundation to help the Friends of the Rails to Trails.

“I don’t know if there would be problems with it or not, but I think nothing ventured, nothing gained, so the initiative to explore the opportunity transparently with [ICF] is fair and reasonable and an appropriate step to make and only time will tell of course,” said Bestwick.

Speaking at a regional district meeting last month, Jack Peake, former foundation board chairman, said rail on the Island is still viable and doesn’t think the infrastructure should be removed.

“I’d like to remind you also that the right-of-way, having been given to the ICF industrial railway, has a tax exemption on property taxes somewhere between $400,000 and $600,000 a year provided by municipalities up and down the corridor,” said Peake. “This means that each and every taxpayer, private citizen, commercial and industrial are picking up the shortfall by giving this tax exemption, not to mention the fact that many local governments also pay crossing fees to [Southern Railway of Vancouver Island].”

Peake said there is no way a special interest group “representing a minority of people” on the Island should have their interests met while the majority of owners of the railway are ignored.

Bestwick anticipates that motion proposal will take place in June.

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