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

Friends of 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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: Lookout Lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

Saanich police cruiser (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Road rage incident on Pat Bay Highway slows afternoon traffic: police

Several witnesses reported driver to police, school officer intercepted

Sooke plans to begin construction of the $4.9-million Church Road corridor project this summer. (Kevin Laird - Sooke News Mirror)
Sooke hopes to start Church Road Corridor project this summer

Road upgrade includes a roundabout, sidewalks, bike lanes and boulevards

The site of the proposed rental housing development at 2197 Otter Point Rd. (District of Sooke)
District of Sooke approves development with 77 rental units

New parking lot for John Phillips Memorial Park included in project

Food trucks can begin operating on May 1 in three Sooke parks: Ed Macgregor, Broomhill Playground, and John Phillips Memorial Park (weekends only). (Pixabay)
Sooke open for food truck pilot project

Applications open April 15, program begins May 1

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as he walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Top doctor warns B.C.’s daily cases could reach 3,000 as COVID hospitalizations surge

There are more than 400 people in hospital, with 125 of them in ICU

The corner of 96th Avenue and Glover Road in Fort Langley now has traffic signals, and new “touchless” signal activation buttons. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Busy Fort Langley intersection gets ‘touchless’ crosswalk signals

The new traffic light started operation in April

A crossing guard stops traffic as students wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 arrive at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. A number of schools in the Fraser Health region, including Woodward Hill, have reported cases of the B.1.7.7 COVID-19 variant first detected in the U.K. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-infected students in Lower Mainland schools transmitting to 1 to 2 others: data

Eight to 13 per cent of COVID cases among students in the Lower Mainland were acquired in schools, B.C. says

The District of Sooke will continue to flower with Communities in Bloom. (Pixabay)
Sooke will bud but not bloom in provincial competition

Council scales back participation in Communities in Bloom

An armed officer walks outside Cerwydden Care on Cowichan Lake Road near Skinner Road Wednesday, April 14 around 5:30 p.m. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Police standoff at Duncan apartment ends peacefully

Officers surround building as homeowner held in apartment for nearly four hours by adult son

Latest modelling by public health shows cases generated by COVID-19 infections into places where it can spread quickly. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
Industrial sites, pubs, restaurants driving COVID-19 spread in B.C.

Infection risk higher in offices, retail, warehouses, farms

Hwy. 4 was shut down in both directions for 10 hours on March 23 as a rock bluff was blasted as part of Kennedy Hill’s ongoing construction. Commuters can expect five more 10 hour closures on five consecutive Wednesdays beginning April 28. (Photo courtesy of Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)
Five 10-hour Pacific Rim highway closures planned in the next 6 weeks

Closures needed for rock blasting as part of the Kennedy Hill Safety Improvement project.

Bulldogs forward Stephen Castagna flips the puck into the Clippers zone during a game on Oct. 24. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Island BCHL game postponed due to ‘potential positive’ COVID-19 test

Nanaimo Clippers team suspends activities, players isolating pending further test results

Vancouver Canucks forward J.T. Miller said it would be “very challenging and not very safe” for him and his teammates to play as scheduled on Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Canucks’ return to ice postponed again after players voice COVID health concerns

Friday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers was called off after the team met virtually with the NHLPA

Most Read