People walking their dog on the newly opened Coombs-to-Parksville Rail Trail. The seven-kilometre trail follows the E&N Railway from Parksville’s Springwood Park to Station Road in Coombs.

Trail from Parksville to the goats in Coombs is open

Trail follows the E&N railway from Parksville's Springwood park to Station Road to Coombs

The Coombs to Parksville Rail Trail is now open.

According to a Facebook post on the Regional District of Nanaimo’s page on Dec. 23, the rail trail was open for use, but an official opening will be scheduled for the springtime.

While the trail is now open for the public, Wendy Marshall said the rail trail will still be getting a few additions in the next coming months.

Marshall, the manager of parks services, said there are still some paving details, lighting and rail crossings to go in. She said all of that won’t be wrapped up until the end of April.

“It’s not quite completed because of the snow and cooler temperatures,” Marshall said.

In April 2016, Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) chair Bill Veenhof told The NEWS that the winning bid for the trail came in at $2.69 million from David Stalker Excavating which was considerably less than the estimated $3 to $4 million.

Marshall also said along with the $2.69 million, they also received additional monies, including money from the regional parks an trails budget, for a total budget of $3.8 million. She said that once the rail trail is completed, they will still be within that budget.

The rail trail follows along the south side of the E&N tracks between Coombs and Parksville. The trail is visible from the Alberni Highway (Highway 4A) near Coombs.

At the Coombs end, the trail starts across from Station Road and a crosswalk has been painted on Highway 4A along with a newly installed kiosk at the trailhead.

At the Parksville end, the rail trail begins at Springwood Park on Despard Avenue with a kiosk near the dog park parking lot. A new trail was created through the north end of Springwood Park in order to separate the rail trail users from the park walkers out for a leisurely stroll.

Along the trail route, people can enter from Virginia, Church, Fairdowne and Nicnbec roads. Except for the first 200 metres of trail in Springwood Park, which has an eight-per-cent grade, the Coombs to Parksville Rail Trail is fully accessible.

In 2009, the RDN undertook an E&N Rail-with-trail Feasibility study to assess potential trail development along the rail corridor within Electoral Areas A, E, F, G and H and the municipalities of Qualicum Beach, Parksville and Lantzville.

Around the same time, the RDN partnered with Capital Regional District, Cowichan Valley Regional District, Comox Valley Regional District, the Island Corridor Foundation and Southern Railway to develop rail-with-trail design guidelines.

The goal, The NEWS reported, is a 290-kilometre bike and pedestrian trail along the entire length of the railway from Victoria to Port Alberni and Courtenay. The Coombs to Parksville Rail Trail is the first in the RDN.

— NEWS Staff

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