Mountain bikers and hikers will be able to access a much-loved trail without the fear of fines this summer after the planned $75,000 bridge to Train Wreck goes ahead.
The pedestrian bridge will link Train Wreck with Trash and the Sea to Sky Trail over the Cheakamus River; Train Wreck currently has no legal access, an issue, which only came to light last spring when CN employees began ticketing people riding or walking down the train tracks.
"To us it's wonderful because now it's linking two trails on both sides of the river that can be ridden in both directions," said Jerome David, president of the Whistler Off Road Cycling Association (WORCA).
"It definitely opens up options (for that area)."
When asked if the project came about from negotiations with CN this past year, Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said: " ...that's a level of detail I don't know. I wouldn't think so."
"It's not CN's issue. They simply don't want people on their right of way, on their track. And so, if we wanted to continue to allow visitors to see the Train Wreck and, the spectacular views of the Cheakamus River in that area as well, we had to deal with it."
CN did not respond to questions regarding the bridge, but noted that Public Rail Safety Week runs April 28 to May 4.
Artist Kris Kupskay has been spray painting murals on the old freight train, which derailed near the banks of the Cheakamus River south of Function Junction in the late 1950s, for about four years. The boxcars were abandoned to the forest, giving way to the trail's name.
When he's there, once or twice a summer, for about six hours at a time, he sees all types of people on the trail — mountain bikers, parents and kids out for a hike, people walking dogs.
"I think it (the bridge) will provide a nice, safe alternative to walking down the train tracks," said Kupskay, who plans to go back and paint this summer.
Last spring, in response to the CN crackdown, Tourism Whistler pulled its online profile recommending the Train Wreck site, which is accessed by walking along the tracks at some point, or at least crossing them — both illegal acts of trespass and in violation of the Railway Safety Act.
"When there is a legal and viable alternative, hopefully people will stay off the tracks," said the mayor.
WORCA advises riders not to be on the train tracks, even on established routes that take people from point A to point B.
It's private land, said David, and CN has the right of way. And people are behaving without thinking, for example, riding down the tracks wearing earphones.
It is not clear when the bridge will be completed. The message remains: stay off the tracks until then.