Next spring will bring new recreation opportunities for legions of B.C. trail enthusiasts. But politicians are also seeing potential for increased tourism and job creation.
A network of B.C. trails has received a commitment of $4.2 million worth of improvements from the province and its partners.
The announcement was made last week in Penticton, one of the towns adjacent to the 455 km Kettle Valley Trail.
This news at came on the heels of the announcement of a $13.5 million dollar provincial-federal partnership to rebuild 12 of the 16 Myra Canyon wooden trestle bridges destroyed in last years devastating Kelowna-area forest fires
The trail redevelopment project, entitled the Spirit of 2010 Trail, is expected to provide up to 250 jobs in the next year and increase tourism spending through enhanced recreational opportunities.
"The Spirit of 2010 Trail will be a lasting legacy for B.C. that will increase tourism and create new jobs, while also promoting physical activity and preserving local history," said Premier Gordon Campbell.
"Working together with the federal government and communities, we are establishing a new, upgraded trail network that will open up our world-class tourism attractions and help attract new visitors from across the globe."
The 700 kilometres worth of converted railway corridors will be refurbished to create multipurpose recreational trails. Cycling, horseback riding, hiking and Nordic skiing will be the primary activities, with the trails also affording access to cultural and natural attractions in the Central Kootenays, Kootenay Boundary, Okanagan Similkameen and Cowichan Valley regional districts.
The trail system, which will link 18 B.C. communities, is comprised of four independent, non-linking trails: The Kettle Valley Rail Trail, The Slocan Rail Trail, the Salmo-Troupe Rail Trail and The Cowichan Valley Rail Trail on Vancouver Island.
Improvements to the four trails will include culvert repair, trestle decking and railings, new bridge constriction, trail surfacing and signage.
"The Spirit of 2010 Trail is a great new tourism asset that perfectly embodies the Super, Natural British Columbia brand," said Mike Duggan, chair of Tourism British Columbia. "It is a very marketable product that is sure to stimulate new visitor activity across all the tourism regions it touches."
"Tourists and communities alike will gain from this world-class trail network," says Stephen Owen, Minister of Western Economic Diversification and Minister of State. "Community-led investments like these today mean lasting social, environmental and economic opportunities tomorrow."
The federal government, through the Softwood Industry Community Economic Adjustment Initiative, has provided half of the Spirit of 2010 Trail projects budget, $2.1 million. The initiative is intended to help forest-dependent communities affected by the U.S. softwood lumber tariffs.
The Trans Canada Trail Foundation has committed $415,000, while the B.C. government, Tourism B.C. and the four regional districts the trails pass through have contributed a total of $1.658 million.
"The Trans Canada Trail Foundation is pleased to support the Spirit of 2010 Trail with a grant of $415,000," says John Bellini, CEO of the foundation. "Work on the Cowichan Valley and Kettle Valley Rail Trails will ensure that the Trans Canada Trail is complete by 2010."
Rail trails came into popularity in the early 70s when communities first saw initiatives come into play to convert abandoned railway corridors into recreational facilities.
Improvements to the Spirit of 2010 Trail are expected to be complete by the spring of 2005. The Myra Canyon trestle reconstruction is slated for completion by 2007.