A segment of the Island Rail corridor, formerly known as the E&N Railway. File Photo

A segment of the Island Rail corridor, formerly known as the E&N Railway. File Photo

Rails to Trails pleads for support to transform Island’s dormant rail line

Group wants to see E&N track removed, corridor repurposed as multi-purpose trail

The Friends of Rails to Trails-Vancouver Island (FORT-VI) is asking Vancouver Island officials to support a high-level cost study to convert the E&N corridor to trail.

The non-profit FORT-VI was formed to investigate and encourage the repurposing of unused rail lines as multi-use trails between Victoria and Courtenay.

In a March 30 presentation to the Comox Valley Regional District board, group member Denise Savoie spoke about economic opportunities for businesses along the route. She said converting the corridor to a multi-use trail would be about six per cent of the rail-with-trail cost being proposed by the Island Corridor Foundation.

RELATED: B.C. Supreme Court dismisses claim against Island Corridor Foundation

RELATED: Realistic figure to get Vancouver Island rail up and running $254 million: CEO

FORT-VI chose the Pennsylvania GAP (Great Allegheny Passage) as a comparison to the E&N, due to its similar length, settlement pattern and population. The trail, constructed from 1986-2013, is estimated to draw a million visitors a year. On average, a visitor spends U.S. $185 per day on food and lodging.

“Right now, Tourism BC is looking for projects to invest in to support the sector hit hard on the Island by the pandemic,” Savoie said.

A 2020 report confirmed the prohibitive cost and low returns — a projected ridership of 11 passengers per day from Courtenay — to reinstate rail service on Vancouver Island, Savoie said. She also noted the E&N corridor features prominently in the development of the CVRD’s Active Transportation Plan.

“It is the obvious and only safe north-south active transportation route in the valley. Public support for this trail is high, with over 1,500 signatures on a petition, just from the valley here.”

FORT-VI says that First Nations are crucially important, and must be involved in decisions about managing the rail right of way. Some support the route passing through lands, while others want it re-routed.

“We believe both conditions can be achieved,” Savoie said. “We believe that corridor lands transecting reserve lands can revert to the First Nations when trail replaces rail. This can be part of the reconciliation process.”

Savoie said the proposal could be a comparative study, conducted by FORT-VI or another party.

“We think that it’s key to making a knowledgeable decision,” Savoie said. “We would love for you to advocate for such a study…This corridor is far too valuable to be left in decay.”

The Island Corridor Foundation, which owns the railway, would need to grant permission for FORT-VI to access the corridor for a study.

The board will consider FORT-VI’s request at a future meeting.

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

Just Posted

Victoria police are looking for a 38-year-old man after he allegedly assaulted and choked a missing 15-year-old victim in Beacon Hill Park Tuesday night. (Black Press Media file photo)
15-year-old choked in Beacon Hill tent, Victoria police assaulted while intervening

Police searching for 38-year-old suspect, two officers injured in altercation with park residents

Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district teachers’ union, and its counterparts from Mount Arrowsmith district, seek stricter COVID-19 rules. (News Bulletin file)
Nanaimo-Ladysmith teachers’ union asks for stricter COVID-19 measures

Teachers ask for vaccine, more online learning, mask mandate for primary students

Some Saanich firefighters have expressed concerns about first responders in the Island Health Region not being prioritized to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as an outbreak at a fire station would make service delivery a challenge. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Saanich firefighters not prioritized for COVID-19 vaccine despite working on frontlines

Saanich members express frustration, department calls on Island Health to take action

A total of 10 flight exposures have affected the Victoria International Airport in April so far, making it the highest monthly total since the start of the pandemic. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria hits record-breaking number of monthly COVID-19 flight exposures

As of April 21, 10 flight exposures reported for the month

Former University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Rowing Canada sanctions former head coach of UVic varsity women’s team

Suspension of Barney Williams would be reversed if he complies with certain terms

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

FILE – The Instagram app is shown on an iPhone in Toronto on Monday, March 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Judge acquits B.C. teen boy ‘set up’ on sex assault charge based on Instagram messages

The girl and her friends did not have ‘good intentions’ towards the accused, judge says

Kai Palkeinen recently helped a car stuck on the riverbed near the Big Eddy Bridge. While the car could not be saved, some of the driver’s belongings were. It’s common for vehicles to get stuck in the area due to significantly changing river levels from Revelstoke Dam. (Photo by Kai Palkeinen)
“I just sank a car’: Revelstoke resident tries to save vehicle from the Columbia River

Although it’s not permitted, the riverbed near the city is popular for off roading

Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, walks down the street with an acquaintance after leaving B.C. Supreme Court during a lunch break at her extradition hearing, in Vancouver, B.C., Thursday, April 1, 2021. A judge is scheduled to release her decision today on a request to delay the final leg of hearings in Meng Wanzhou’s extradition case. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rich Lam
B.C. judge grants Meng Wanzhou’s request to delay extradition hearings

Lawyers for Canada’s attorney general had argued there is no justification to delay proceedings in the case

B.C. Premier John Horgan announces travel restrictions between the province’s regional health authorities at the legislature, April 19, 2021. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sees 862 more COVID-19 cases Wednesday, seven deaths

Recreational travel restrictions set to begin Friday

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson is photographed following her budget speech in the legislative assembly at the provincial legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. budget lacks innovative drive, vision during uncertain times, say experts

Finance Minister Selina Robinson’s budget sets out to spend $8.7 billion over three years on infrastructure

Using panels kept cold by water circulating within them, B.C. researchers compared thermal comfort in 60 of the world’s most populous cities, including Toronto. (Lea Ruefenacht)
B.C. researchers use air conditioning to combat spread of COVID particles

Dr. Adam Rysanek and his team have proven a new worthwhile system – a mixture of cooling panels and natural ventilation

Police road checks are coming for people travelling between regions while COVID-19 travel restrictions are in place. (Black Press file photo)
B.C. clarifies COVID-19 travel restrictions, Lower Mainland a single zone

Vehicle checks on highways, at ferry terminals to start Friday

(Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich calls for non-police security for mental health patients at hospitals

Saanich police spent nearly 1,200 hours waiting with patients at hospitals in 2020

Most Read