The bike networks that connect the Greater Victoria region are only getting busier, but finding funding for safety upgrades has the CRD hitting a dead end.
“Every year we’re setting new records for more people using them,” said CRD Parks Board chair Colin Plant, who is also a Saanich councillor. “As we see these trails become more used we have to do the upgrades people are asking for but we haven’t found any revenue to do it so it hasn’t moved forward.”
I can update that at this point the Goose and Lochside widening and lighting project is not funded and will not proceed without grants. The E-N route is not being considered for lighting or worentony at this time.
— Colin Plant (@ColinPlant2022) April 27, 2023
Currently, the CRD relies on provincial government grants when it comes to updating park trails, which they’ve been losing out on. And rather than waiting for the grants to roll in, some say it may be time for the region itself to invest instead.
“The logical way would be to look at raising taxes to do the work we’ve determined that needs to be done,” said Plant.
The CRD has identified sections of the Galloping Goose and Lochside Trails, specifically the north side of the Selkirk Trestle towards Tillicum, and northeast out to Mackenzie as areas needing trail widening and night lighting.
“I never use [it at] night time because I’m scared,” said Kulbir Takhir who walks the trails three days a week. “If it was lit then summertime, definitely. I’d use it.”
“There’s a lot of scary moments. In the summer as the bike traffic increases, you get into more close calls,” said Scott Knight who commutes twice a day along the trails, usually by foot.
The tax increase would be CRD-wide, meaning communities outside the trail network would have to chip in.
“Even though not everyone will use these trails, everybody will benefit because it means fewer people on the roads,” said Plant.
The idea is not without some pushback.
“Widening trails and adding artificial lighting negatively impacts the integrity of our region’s path-side natural habitats,” Swan Lake Conservancy said in a letter to the CRD.
Instead, they’re suggesting motion-activated directional lights with longer wavelengths that are less disruptive to nocturnal wildlife. Plant says that’s entirely on the table if the CRD is able to secure funding.
CRD staff will present a report suggesting new funding streams for the bike trail upgrades, likely including a tax increase among other suggestions, in July.
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