Community consultations for a non-motorized, multi-use community trail along the Vancouver Island Corridor




Cano, Alli

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Across North America, the increasing interest in policy development around recreational trails has been accompanied by a growing body of literature investigating the impact of recreational trails and active transportation infrastructure development. Likewise, local and provincial governments are increasingly including active transportation in local plans, and are dedicating more resources to recreational trail and active transportation infrastructure. This research project focuses on a rail-to-trail project proposed by Friends of Rails to Trails – Vancouver Island, a non-profit organization in British Columbia, in the Vancouver Island rail corridor (also referred to as the Esquimalt and Nanaimo, or E&N corridor). The project would see the E&N rail replaced entirely by a multi-use, non-motorized community trail from north of Langford through the length of the corridor. Using a qualitative method involving literature review, document review, and key informant interviews, this research explores the extent to which the proposed trail might add value to communities along the corridor, and in what ways the trail might impact communities, both positively and negatively. The study revealed that stakeholders perceived a number of benefits consistent with the literature, mostly concerning benefits accruing through use of the trail. These include economic benefits through tourism and added opportunities for local businesses, improved safety for active transportation users, and uptake of low-carbon transportation modes. However, broader social benefits for both users and non-users of the trail that were evident in the literature, such as increased social cohesion, were largely absent in interviews. Foremost among the concerns and challenges for the proposed project identified through the study is the necessity of securing First Nations consent and partnership in the project. Additional concerns centred on the value of the corridor as a continuous, linear transportation corridor, and the document review and interviews suggested that maintaining the corridor in its continuous state was a key priority, even without identifying a particular use for the corridor. Based on the research findings and subsequent analysis, it is recommended that future engagement with stakeholders on the proposed trail project be centred around three priority approaches. The recommendations are designed to be complementary, and aim to capitalize on the areas in which community and political support for the project is evident, and at the same time address some of the primary concerns raised by interviewees.



rail-to-trail, total economic value, community trail, active transportation, recreational trail, community consultations, Vancouver Island Corridor, E&N Corridor