Plans are in the works that could see the dike trail that currently ends at the Somenos Marsh Open Air Classroom expanded by 1.5 kilometres.
The Municipality of North Cowichan has applied for $500,000 in funding from the Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program to extend the trail through to the B.C. Forest Discovery Centre.
The municipality would have to provide matching funds if the application is accepted.
According to a staff report, the trail expansion would provide significant value to the community.
“By expanding the existing dike trail and providing a connection to the Friendship Trail at Cowichan Commons, it would complete a loop of safe pedestrian and cycling routes between downtown Duncan/North Cowichan and the uptown area,” the report stated.
The report said the actual costs of building the trail expansion may be lower than the anticipated pricetag.
That would depend on the material and engineering needed to create a separation between the trail and the highway, the extent to which boardwalk or other high-cost materials are used through marshy areas, and the extent of fencing needed to separate the trail from private or environmentally sensitive land.
If the federal funding is provided, North Cowichan will work with the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society and Cowichan Tribes to design and build the trail with the objective of minimizing impacts to the marsh, and will work to inform trail users about the importance of respect for the sensitive habitat.
Coun. Joyce Behnsen said she has concerns about the costs of the project.
“One million dollars for 1.5 kilometres of trail would be on the back of the taxpayers, and I’m not sure taxpayers will see that as justified,” she said.
Coun. Al Siebring said that in his years in municipal politics, he has never seen a trail proposal that the public didn’t support.
Council voted unanimously to support the funding application.