Fundraising campaign launched for rail trail

NANAIMO – The Nanaimo Regional Rail Trail Partnership is collecting donations to help build a seamless connector.

The charity behind a regional rail trail aims to clear a major financial hurdle with the launch of a new fundraising campaign this week.

The newly formed Nanaimo Regional Rail Trail Partnership is looking to build momentum for a seamless connector along the E&N railway, with the launch of a new website and fundraising effort on Tuesday.

The dream is to fill in eight kilometres of missing trail between Woodgrove Centre and the Nanaimo Airport before broadening the reach to look at building a potential Island-wide pathway and ‘world-class’ cycling destination.

Andre Sullivan, chairman of the partnership, sees “lots of advantages” to the local trail, from helping the city go green to getting more people out of their vehicles, but he also says the project won’t be without challenges.

The cost estimate for the connector in Nanaimo alone is anticipated to be $20 million – $4 million of that is caught up in the Millstone River and Caledonia area, which presents the largest geographical challenge for the partnership so far.

With the help of the public, in-kind donations and entrepreneurial solutions from the partnership group – made up of local government and organizations like Tourism Nanaimo and the Island Corridor Foundation – the hope is to dramatically reduce costs and eventually create the commuter trail, Sullivan said.

“Municipalities have done a good job of building what they have, but we all know we want to keep our taxes down … if it’s something we really want to do then we have to put our money where our mouth is,” he said.

The rail trail partnership aims to focus on building up the pathway within Nanaimo’s city limits first, including connecting a partially built rail behind the train station through the Old City Quarter.

Nanaimo Coun. George Anderson had originally called for city council to spur discussion about a potential Island-wide rail trail network last August and said it is “wonderful” there’s momentum to bring the project forward as a priority. The trail will help the city meet goals in its transportation plan, utilize a resource that already exists and protect the corridor, he said.

“Not many communities are lucky to be able to have a corridor such as this that goes centrally throughout the entire community,” he said. “If this trail was built it’s something that could be used by the majority of citizens.”

For more information or to donate, please visit www.nanaimoregionrailtrail.ca.