Between funding, freight and the alleged infrequent routes, restoring rail service to Vancouver Island has been a contentious issue.
But one Qualicum Beach resident believes the solution is written in the dirt.
Michael Addiscott is calling on elected officials and community members to support his bid to transform the railway into a hiking and biking trail instead of working to restore freight and passenger service.
“This Island is part of ‘beautiful B.C.’ not coal mines and clear cuts,” said Addiscott.
“I want to see the Island Corridor Foundation board — and those who influence the ICF board — to recognize that building a trail is a far greater long term benefit to communities along the corridor.”
Passenger service on the rail line was suspended in 2011 due to poor track conditions. Since then, local governments have been working to get service reinstated, however cost speculation has hindered progress. RDN chair Joe Stanhope estimates the project will cost around $100 million; while ICF CEO Graham Bruce insists the $20 million earmarked by all three levels of government will be enough to resurrect the track. The ICF held its annual general meting Wednesday but closed it to the public and media.
“A trail system is more relevant and achievable,” said Addiscott. “It does away with trying to force industrial projects through against the will of the community.”
Addiscott said he has talked with engineers who have assured him “an insurable freight and passenger train would far exceed the cost of a trail.”
Additionally, Addiscott believes there are more options for government funding for a trail system in terms of carbon tax and health-related grants.
“The ICF already has the bureaucracy and physical foundation in place to run a continuous trail corridor from Courtney to Victoria,” he said. “It just makes sense.”
Addiscott envisions the 234 kilometre stretch as a trail linking Island communities via health and fitness while promoting tourism on Vancouver Island and boosting the economy.
“Imagine being a tourist — from let’s say Germany — taking your bike on the ferry (because it’s a lot cheaper than a car) and cycling the island, staying in different communities, eating at different restaurants and seeing this island for what it is.”
Addiscott and Megan Olsen started an online petition last week garnering community support and dialog in developing a trail system.
So far more than 300 people have signed the petition which calls for “an achievable island paved trail that will actually improve the economy, communities and people of Vancouver Island” according to the webpage.
Reva Djos, of Qualicum Beach, signed the petition commenting: “I think restoring the railroad would be a waste of tax payer money and who can even afford to take it? A free walking and bike trail makes more sense.”
Penny Youngash, of Nanoose Bay, also signed the petition commenting: “A cycling and hiking trail would be fantastic. Just ask anyone from White Rock if they’d prefer a seawall rather than the daily freight and passenger trains that rumble by the waterfront.”
For more information, or to sign the petition, visit: https://www.change.org/en-CA/petitions.