Tourism Nanaimo awards grant to rail trail idea

NANAIMO – Three organizations will benefit from the first wave of grants from Tourism Nanaimo. The dollars are meant to grow tourism ideas.

Work on a regional rail trail is gaining momentum thanks to a $20,000 funding injection from Tourism Nanaimo.

The newly-formed Nanaimo Regional Rail Trail Partnership took the largest cut of new cash incentives announced by  the city’s independent tourism arm this week.

It is a big boon to the group, which now plans to start engineering work on a seamless city connector along the E&N railway. The rail trail partnership hopes the pathway can eventually link into a cross-Island network, helping to propel sports tourism on Vancouver Island.

“It will go into engineering and planning and with any luck, we can get shovels into the ground, too,” said Mike Delves, partnership director.

The dollars are part of the first wave of cash incentives from Tourism Nanaimo’s $125,000 development fund, which is aimed at growing ideas that boost overnight stays and help put the Harbour City on the map. A total of $38,000 was handed out this week to three organizations, including $5,000 for the Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre’s inaugural First Nations soccer tournament and $13,000 for a feasibility study into a new paddling centre by the Nanaimo Boathouse Society.

The rail trail group believes the ticket to boosting tourism is in attracting cyclists with a city-wide trail network. It has been collecting funding for construction over the past year and will now look at ways to connect sections of trail.

Applications for the next wave of tourism funding are accepted until Oct. 31.