Work on a trail project in Shawnigan Lake has raised the ire of many of its neighbours.
The Cowichan Valley Regional District recently began work on the “rail with trail” project that will see a trail built next to the train tracks within the E&N rail corridor in the area between Mason’s Beach Park, Shawnigan Wharf Park and Old Mill Park.
The project had been identified as an important community pathway connection opportunity within the Shawnigan Lake community parks and trails master plan that was developed, with input from the community, several years ago.
But Al Brunet, who owns property adjacent to the rail corridor, said he doesn’t understand why the CVRD started the project without any clarity as to the future of the rail line.
He said efforts by the Island Corridor Foundation to bring rail service back to Vancouver Island are ongoing and if the revival of the rail line doesn’t happen, which he believes is likely, then the new trail that is being constructed could be placed right on the bed where the tracks currently lie.
“It would certainly be a lot cheaper than the building of a whole new trail system,” Brunet said.
“If the trains don’t run again, then a whole lot of taxpayers’ money spent on this project will have gone right down the chute.”
Brunet said 14 other property owners who live along the track where the trail is being constructed share his point of view.
He said they have other concerns about the construction of the new trail, including the possibility the construction could damage their underground piping systems, and leach damaging sediments into Shawnigan Lake.
“Until we find out what is the future of the railway, we don’t understand why the CVRD is steamrolling ahead with this project and causing such consternation in the community,” Brunet said.
Kris Schumacher, the CVRD’s manager of communications and engagement, said the intent of the new trail is to complement the existing trail line, not replace it.
He said similar trail projects are taking place next to the rail tracks along the E&N line up and down the Island.
“The rail lines are being left in place in preparation for the possible reactivation of train service in the area,” Schumacher said.
“This trail is being built so that bikers and hikers can have a trail, regardless if the train service comes back or not. Why would we tear up the rail lines only to face the possibility that they may have to be put back at a later date? That could be very costly.”
Besides, Schumacher said, the rail bed and surrounding area is quite wide, so putting a biking and hiking trail right in the middle of it would prevent the extra space from being used for other purposes in the future that are not envisioned today.
As for the other concerns of the property owners, Schumacher said an on-site environmental consultant that is overseeing the project has seen no evidence of sediments entering the lake since work began.
“No pipes have been ripped out of the ground either, and there are no plans to do so in future stages of the trail project,” he said.
“Like this phase, any future phases will have detailed and comprehensive engineering and environmental assessment work done to ensure impacts will be kept to a minimum.”