With about 200 kilometers of abandoned railroad tracks turning to rust, the Friends Of Rails To Trails Vancouver Island group says it’s time to take a page from the Kettle Valley Railroad book: pull up the tracks and turn the right of way into a series of recreational trails.
Freight and passenger services on the railroad were discontinued six years ago, and since then, many sections have fallen into such disrepair that they can’t safely handle trains. However, the Island Corridor Foundation still wants to see restorations implemented so that passenger train service can be brought back.
So far, there hasn’t been a lot of progress. Last year, the Regional District Of Nanaimo pulled funding, citing lengthy delays. Then, the province gave the go-ahead to a working group to study the feasibility of a commuter rail system between Langford and Vic West.
Now, FORTVI is championing the removal of tracks in certain sections in order to turn them into multipurpose trails. Comox Valley coordinator Denise Savoie says that not only would the cost of getting the tracks back into train-ready condition be prohibitive, Vancouver Island just doesn’t have enough of a population base to make it a going concern. “We all have a nostalgic dream of bringing back the railway on the island, and it’s a wonderful dream,” she says. “It just isn’t practical.”
She’s currently getting signatures on a petition, and hopes that after meeting with the Island Corridor Foundation, some agreements can be worked out and perhaps a cost-benefit analysis of each option can be done. “At the moment this is an incredible public asset which is just lying there unused,” she says.