Convert ICF to world class trail

With the RDN withdrawal of funding from the moribund E&N rail line, now is the time to talk about converting it to a recreational corridor.

Re: ‘ICF pledges to soldier on,’ (The NEWS, March 29).

With the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) withdrawal of funding from the Island Corridor Foundation (ICF) plan to revamp the moribund E&N rail line, now is the time to table serious talk about converting Vancouver Island’s entire rail line into a recreational corridor.

When musing over the pulled funding, ICF co-chair Judith Sayers said: “The Nanaimo region stands to benefit significantly from revitalized rail service.”

But a hard look at the economic realities of rail reveals a bleaker scenario.

We should remember that Island residents are anathema to industrial development. There will be a gusher of cash injected by industrial users to pay down E&N’s husky repair bills.

And with the very limited schedule of passenger service proposed, one cannot see Island citizens abandoning their cars to buy tickets and ride the rails again.

And as one watches how large infrastructure projects on Vancouver Island are being handled these days (sewage anyone?), taxpayers here should be very leery when handing over precious tax dollars to a loosely-accountable organization like the ICF.

Finally, one does wonder: can someone honestly tell us how much it would really cost to fix the E&N?

What to do? Well, all across North America, abandoned rail lines have been re-purposed as recreation corridors, turning derelict properties into outdoor gems to be enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.

For example, our Okanagan neighbours will soon be celebrating the conversion of an underutilized CN rail line into a recreation path, connecting Vernon to Kelowna.

If Islanders banded together and supported a rail-to-trail initiative, we would have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to preserve a continuous, regionally-significant walk and ride corridor from Nanaimo to Comox Valley.

We could possibly even build a world-class, knock-your-socks-off stunner of a trail all the way from Greater Victoria to Comox.

Brian BrennanQualicum Beach

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