Residents and visitors alike will soon have legal access to one of Whistler's favourite excursions — the Train Wreck.
"We've heard time and time again how people really enjoy going in to the Train Wreck site," said Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden. "It is a beautiful section of the river, for one, and then of course the train wreck is really quite unique, and it's a little bit of an authentic Whistler experience."
The Train Wreck is located near the banks of the Cheakamus River south of Function Junction. For years many visitors have accessed the area by walking along the CN Rail track from Function Junction, which is illegal. After CN began handing out tickets to trespassers along the line the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) decided to create a way to access the area legally and safely by building a bridge.
The RMOW will spend $176,000 on design and construction of the bridge this summer, with the aim of having it completed in July.
The money will come from the Resort Municipality Initiative fund.
The project has been a long time coming and it's actually been included in the last two municipal budgets, Wilhelm-Morden said.
"When we received notification from CN that they were most concerned about trespassers on the tracks it became a bit more of a pressing issue," she said. "So that's why we put it in the budget last year, but we didn't get prices that we could live with, so we didn't go ahead with it."
The RMOW expects to award the contract for the project by the end of May, the mayor said.
The municipality has never done a count of foot and bike traffic in the area, "but I do know that when I've been down there on a sunny, summer day, there are a lot of people there," the mayor said. "It's very popular."
Tourism Whistler (TW) promoted the hike until 2013, when CN Rail began ticketing trespassers on its private railroad tracks.
"The new pedestrian bridge would provide a way to access the trail without having to cross the CN Rail tracks and yes, once it is constructed and ready for use, we would promote it through our channels such as our website, blog (and) social media," TW's communications manager Patricia Westerholm wrote in an email.
April 25 to May 1 marks Rail Safety Week in Canada this year, and CN Rail said it works closely with the RMOW to improve both safety and access to outdoor recreation.
"We are actively engaged with the municipality to address areas of mutual concern, with a focus on public safety," said Kate Fenske, manager of media and community relations for CN Rail.
"As we mark Rail Safety Week, CN wants to remind everyone that taking a shortcut across the tracks or being on railway property is illegal and extremely dangerous. Trespassers can get seriously injured or killed."
More rail safety tips can be found at www.cn.ca/en/delivering-responsibly/safety/rail-safety.