Preliminary plans for a project to link Rathtrevor Provincial Park to Parksville Community Park (above) could come to the public this fall.

Preliminary plans for a project to link Rathtrevor Provincial Park to Parksville Community Park (above) could come to the public this fall.

Parksville to unveil plans linking popular parks

Preliminary design might be out by the fall for public input

The public may soon get a look at a plan to link Rathtrevor Provincial Park to Parksville Community Park with a biking and walking trail.

A city official said this week, if all goes well, preliminary design plans for the long-discussed project could be ready for public input in the fall and construction could start in 2017. That would mean open houses for residents of both the city and the Regional District of Nanaimo’s San Pariel neighbourhood before the winter, said Parksville’s director of engineering Vaughn Figueira.

“They would see a proposed alignment and preliminary design,” said Figueira. “I hope people are excited about it. It would be fantastic to bike or walk right along the Nature’s Trust property, over the (Englishman) river and right to the park.”

There’s no cost estimate for the plan yet, said Figueira.

“We want to get a preliminary design first,” he said.

The project will have to get input, and approval, from governments at the municipal (Parskville and the RDN), provincial (Ministry of Highways) and federal (Department of Fisheries and Oceans) levels.

The City of Parksville has been talking about this project for many years. In fact, it has been doing more than talking. The city bought land near the end of Shelly Road on the shores of the river in anticipation of that area being the location of a river crossing for the trail. Former Mayor Chris Burger took The NEWS on a tour of that land and discussed the plans in 2013.

The city has also been looking past Community Park with an eye to eventually developing a trail along the waterfront that would stretch the length of the city’s marine boundary, roughly from the Englishman River to French Creek.

Whenever there is development on land close to the ocean, the city has been taking a portion — developers must designate a part of the project as park — in strips of land closest to the high-tide mark.

While there are many jurisdictional, financial and engineering challenges ahead for the Rathtrevor-to-Community Park plan, the biggest hurdle may be crossing the Englishman River.

“The estuary is too (sensitive environmentally) to even think about crossing there,” so any bridge would have to go over the river upstream and likely connect to Plummer Road in San Pariel, a roadway under the responsibility of the provincial government’s Ministry of Highways, said Figueira.

“But before we can even think about all that we have to meet with Parksville residents and San Pariel residents,” he said.

Another potential challenge will be the routing between the river and Community Park where there is privately-owned land, said Figueira.