The one-kilometer extension of the E&N rail trail pedestrian and cycling pathway beginning at Atkins road all the way to savory school has some residents living along it worried. Several are strongly opposed citing multiple environmental concerns.
Among them is environmental scientist and Royal Roads University professor of Environment and Sustainability Leslie King.
“We don’t have a problem with a bike path we love bike paths but as its cited right now it would destroy a very sensitive riparian ecosystem,” said King.
King says the CRD’s proposal which would have part of the path going along the south side of the tracks will go right through delicate habitat home to a wide range of species.
“There are nesting owls several species of owls several species of raptors we have turkey vultures and bald eagles. As soon as we start cutting down trees the disturbance alone will drive them away,” said King.
Those opposed also say the path would disturb the Millstream watershed which is home to an indigenous population of cutthroat trout as well as coho salmon runs.
“Can you imagine if a run of coho salmon would happen to come up here this fall when they are pouring asphalt the optics are not good,” said concerned resident Jeff Morrow.
“I’m also very worried that with the traffic of the bike lane there will be garbage thrown into the salmon stream,” said King.
The group of residents against the location of the path has signed and sent a letter to the CRD detailing their numerous reasons.
Part of it reads “It is inconceivable that we would build this large trail (no woodland path) on a relatively pristine eco-system threatening riparian habitat and many other environmental values rather than siting it on already disturbed, developed land. Most Rails to Trails projects are sited on disturbed land and/or the rail bed.”
Among the reasons listed, there are social concerns as well, calling on the CRD to preserve the land which was an important transportation route for First Nations people.
“Archaeological sites indicate that the area has likely been used for 3,000 years by first nations,” said King.
The letter also states families and pets who enjoy the area and walk the ravine do so, without threatening the biodiversity or sensitive ecosystem saying “that is a better use of the area rather than high-speed bike traffic that prohibits other uses and provides a barrier to mobility of both wildlife and people,” it reads.
Construction on the expansion is expected to begin in the fall but they’re hoping to stop it and King says she is willing to use extreme measures if necessary.
“I will chain myself to one of those bulldozers of the Douglas firs,” said King.
Nobody from the CRD Parks Committee was available to comment Sunday.