Nanaimo agrees to match fundraising dollars to go toward rail trail

NANAIMO – Next year the City of Nanaimo will match up to $100,000 raised by the Nanaimo Regional Rail Trail Partnership.

Advocates of a cross-city rail trail have 100,000 reasons to ramp up fundraising efforts.

The City of Nanaimo recently agreed to match up to $100,000 in money raised by the Nanaimo Region Rail Trail Partnership next year to help unite sections of the E&N pathway.

The new rail charity – made up of local government and organizations like Tourism Nanaimo – started its fundraising campaign last February to attract private and public donations for a seamless city connector. Eventually the dream is to look toward building an Island-wide pathway and “world-class” cycling destination.

The latest funding contribution is “huge,” according to Andre Sullivan, chairman of the partnership, who said it demonstrates how meaningful the project is to the community.

Nanaimo city officials also committed $50,000 in this year’s budget for preliminary designs of a trail from downtown to Seventh Street.

“It shows that if we are successful with fund-raising, the city is willing to get behind it,” Sullivan said. “We are really excited.”

The partnership will focus on building up the pathway in Nanaimo city limits first, with eight kilometres of trail still missing between Woodgrove Centre and the Nanaimo Airport. The cost for the work is estimated at $20 million.

As part of a recent city decision made during budget talks, the municipality will do preliminary design work and routing for a part of the E&N trail south from downtown to Seventh Street, pursue grant opportunities in cooperation with the rail trail group and match up to $100,000 from its trails capital budget to dollars raised by the partnership. The only catch is donations matched must be from private sources and not organizations like the Downtown Nanaimo Business Improvement Association that are currently funded with taxpayer money.

Coun. George Anderson, who made the E&N-related motions, said that providing the funding makes sense. The community and City of Nanaimo see a cross-city trail as a priority and the rail trail partnership is helping to achieve it.

“When you have groups like the rail trail also fundraising, I think we will see this come to fruition even quicker,” Anderson said.

The Nanaimo Region Rail Trail Partnership will now seek dollars from the regional district and the provincial and federal governments. So far $70,000 has been raised.

The next major trail fundraiser will be the Blair McKinnon Celebrity Football Game June 7. For more information, please e-mail or visit www.nanaimo