A Ladysmith man is urging Islanders to see a new future for the E & N rail line that runs between Victoria and Courtenay.
As years pass from the days Islanders enjoyed regular train service and hopes diminish of ever seeing it re-established, Guy Dauncey says we are being presented with a beautiful opportunity to turn the route into a world renowned cycling route that connects Island communities.
Pedalling along rail lines that haven’t see regular passenger train service in years, Guy Dauncey is envisioning a bikeway, not railway for its future.
“It would be the envy of British Columbia,” says the Ladysmith resident and Eco activist. “I probably got the idea that this incredible corridor could be a bike way probably three or four years ago just by considering the success of cycling around the world and of long distance cycling routes that are being installed and the incredible popularity thy have and looking at this route and wondering then seriously will the railways ever run.”
The Island Corridor Foundation insists daily train service between Victoria and Courtenay is still in reach. When a heritage train was brought in to run the line in Nanaimo earlier this month to celebrate 130 years of rail here the dream was clearly rekindled for a lot of people.
“I hope this is just the beginning of what can be done, because this is such a layout that we have here,” says Dave Burwood.
“Bringing in tours, connecting with cruise ships,” says Chair of the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance, Ron Cantelon. “Taking people into spots on the Island in very intimate way. It’s gonna be terrific.”
But after five years of waiting for that terrific dream to materialize this spring the Regional District of Nanaimo pulled funding for the Island Corridor Foundation, citing inaction. Dunce agrees and says its time to look at what converting the 300 kilometre long rail line into a bikeway would cost.
It would be fantastic for cycling tourism. People staying at the bed and breakfasts and it would bring out people children, it would encourage fitness it would encourage health. All over the world people are paving old unused railway lines to keep them in use and make a public benefit of them.
So Dauncey hopes this idea gains traction as a real possibility instead for Vancouver Island.
Every local community, in the Shawinigan’s, in the Duncan’s, in the Deep Bay’s, in the Union Bay’s people are going to use it for going to and fro for shopping for kids going to school and for leisure activities and enjoying a pleasant time together.
But that would mean giving up on a dream many are still holding on tight to. Two options taking this Island down two very different paths going forward.