All aboard!


The first section of a new paved trail for walkers and cyclists alongside the rail tracks through Courtenay will definitely be built this summer. It will run from Fifth Street to Cumberland Road and will include extensive landscaping, providing a way more attractive setting for the city's train station.
The project is a joint initiative of the City of Courtenay, Courtenay Rotary Club and the Island Corridor Foundation, which owns the E&N railway land. The three groups hope that before long further sections will be added to the trail to create a safe and appealing cross-city route for pedestrians and bike riders alike.

Mayor Greg Phelps said this project would provide an alternate transport link avoiding busy roads and beautify the first place visitors saw when arriving by train.  "Right now this area doesn't look very inviting," said Phelps.  "We're going to pay a lot of attention to the surroundings with landscaping and possibly some murals."

Rotary club president Robert Buckley said the work would start in April and he hoped the first section would be complete by September. "We look forward to supporting it, not only with fundraising dollars but also with our club members volunteering their time to help construct the trail," he added.

The club is making the 'trail along the rails' their major fundraising initiative for 2011, and will be dedicating all money raised through upcoming online and live auctions to the project. The internet auction will run through March and the live event will be on April 16 at the Filberg Centre. In recent years the two events combined have raised about $50,000, and the city is also earmarking a similar amount of money to support the project.

Auction chair Art Meyers told the city council the club hoped to see the trail extended down to 17th Street quickly, and eventually reach the Comox Valley Parkway at 29th Street. But Mayor Phelps has a grander vision. "I hope I live long enough to see this run all the way to Victoria," he told councillors.

At several places along the rail tracks between Courtenay and Victoria there were sections of trail either developed or in the planning stages, he noted. The dream was that one day they would all link up, providing an outstanding recreational and tourist attraction for Vancouver Island. For now, the Rotary commitment was a "great first step," he said.  "Once again Rotary has stepped up to the plate with dollars and labour, and we're very grateful.  "It's going to make it much easier to get this project off the ground."

The project envisions a three metre wide hard surface trail being constructed after invasive plants such as Scotch broom and Himalayan blackberries have been removed. In their place, hundreds of new trees and shrubs will be planted and benches installed along the way to create a welcoming environment for train travellers and trail users alike.

Councillors warmly welcomed the plan, and said it should be full steam ahead for the project. Councillor Jon Ambler said it would breathe new life into the area -
"exactly the sort of thing we should be supporting." And Coun. Manno Theos said it would result in "a cleaner, safer and more people-friendly area along that corridor and it will become a tourist attraction."

By Philip Round          Courtesy: Comox Valley Echo