SUBMITTED PHOTO The old 90 km long Englewood Railway line could potentially be turned into a world class hiking trail.

World Class Hiking Trail For The North Island?

The idea is getting some serious attention.

In June of this year, Western Forest Products (WFP) announced that the decommissioning of the old 90 km long Englewood Railway line would commence this summer, beginning at the south end of the line at Vernon Lake and ending at Beaver Cove. Englewood Forest Operations estimates the project will take 12 to 14 months to complete.

WFP confirmed that while tracks and ties will be taken up, “Existing bridges and trestles will not be removed,” and the rail bed will be graded to allow their trucks and equipment to pick up and remove the ties, hardware and rail. WFP spokesperson, Babita Khunkhun went on to explain that, “any exploration of trail concept would be in collaboration with ‘Namgis on whose traditional territory the rail bed is located.”

Regional tourism officials and operators, the regional district and town councils have been aware of the proposed decommissioning and now that it is underway, wonder if there is an opportunity to work with ‘Namgis First Nations, to create a world-class hiking and mountain bike trail.

Kristie Eccleston and Cheryl Jorgenson, co-chairs of the Port McNeill Tourism Advisory Committee feel a multi-use trail, replacing the Englewood railroad would, “bring about more recreational choices to the local community and also draw more tourism opportunities to the area.”

Eccleston went onto caution: “Of course, liability, safety and maintenance will be issues needing to be addressed.” However, she was hopeful that with cooperation between ‘Namgis, municipalities, the regional district and other levels of government that: “We can find a way to make it work and see the creation of a trail that many can enjoy.”

Bruce McMorran of the Paddlers Inn, echoes Ms. Eccleston’s comments adding, “The rail line represents existing infrastructure, a heritage piece that could now be repurposed and used to support the growing importance of tourism to the North Island economy.”

Research conducted on behalf of Vancouver Island North Tourism indicates that over 70% of those visiting the region are looking to experience our parks and trails with nearly 50 per cent specifying hiking as their primary reason for visiting the area.

The Regional District of Mound Waddington (RDMW) sees this decommissioned line as the region’s opportunity to create something similar to the successful Kettle Valley Railway trail in the Okanagan. Pat English, Manager of Economic Development for the RDMW, sees it as an opportunity with, “lots of positives”. Adding, “If the ‘Namgis are interested, the Regional District would help in anyway it could. We want to be part of the solution.”

Port McNeill Mayor Gaby Wickstrom feels the benefits of a trail of this nature could offer an excellent opportunity to collaborate with the ‘Namgis to make a world class hiking trail that would draw people to the area.

– Bill McQuarrie article

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