A Vancouver Island First Nation is asking the province to convert a railway line that runs across the Island into a public trail that can be used by everyone.

In a press release issued Tuesday, the Snaw-Naw-As (Nanoose) First Nation, which is near Lantzville, said that the Island Rail Corridor, which runs through their land, would be better if the province converted the railway into an accessible, paved trail.

“It is now time for it to be repurposed to again benefit First Nation and Non First Nation Communities of Vancouver Island,” the release said.

The Island Rail Corridor or Southern Railway of Vancouver Island is owned and operated by the Island Corridor Foundation, who have previously estimated that it would take $150 million to restore commuter rail service to the Island.

Snaw-Naw-As’ request comes after a report released by WSP Canada, suggests that it could cost anywhere from $227 million to $548 million for commuter rail service between Victoria and Courtenay, depending on the level of upgrades.

“There is absolutely no business case for these immense investments,” the Snaw-Naw-As said in the release.

Snaw-Naw-As say that while the railway played an important part in Canadian history, it is time for it to be ripped up and the turned into a public pathway.

“The railway is just sitting there, not being used, and rotting away,” the Snaw-Naw-As said.

They also say that the ICF needs to accept that WSP Canada’s report is the “death knell” to their dreams of restoring commuter rail on the Island.

“What this assessment makes clear, is what we have known all along: rehabilitating this railway
line is nothing more than Victorian-era fantasy. It’s time for the board of directors at the Island
Corridor [Foundation] to show some leadership and re-purpose that rail, which was envisioned when the ICF was created.”

The release also described restoring commuter rail one of the “least shovel-ready and riskiest
investments” the provincial government could ever make.

The Snaw-Naw-As is currently suing the ICF and the Attorney General of Canada and are asking for the land that the track sits on in their reserve to be returned to them.