Les Anderson has dreamed of a trail linking Island communities for years and sees the current railway trouble as the prefect opportunity for serious discussion.
He said he’s taken the VIA Dayliner up and down the Island himself and it is a great trip, but it gets very limited use, compared to the thousands that might use small sections as a trail through the cities.
Thinking of other rail to trail projects, including the famous Kettle Valley line in the Interior, Anderson suggests the current debate should at least include a proper study of the trail option.
A trail attached to the Galloping Goose trail in Victoria and running at an even grade right through communities from the capital through Nanaimo to Courtenay would provide huge benefits for recreation, tourism and even commuting in local areas, he said.
While he recognizes not everyone wants to turn the rail into trails he said it might be the most viable option and said he was disappointed the E&N Rail Corridor Study done a couple years ago didn’t even consider it.
He said considering $100 million estimates to fully restore the railway, it’s worth considering the priorities of people on the Island in the face of budget constraints and areas like education and health care.
He suggested that it might take very little public money, if any, to get a group or company to salvage the steel and ties and leave the rail bed in useable condition.
The initial step might just remove the tracks and leave it as rough, but other opportunities would likely develop. He said the Galloping Goose has proved a valuable right of way for utility companies to bury their services and then pave or help maintain sections.
It would be a tourist draw for people to come and travel the entire length of the trail, he said, but he mostly imagines it would get a lot of local use in areas with people commuting between Parksville and Qualicum Beach or through the Ladysmith-Duncan area.
He encourages people to visit http://railstotrailsvancouverisland.yolasite.com/ to join the conversation.