Some big local news came out of Ottawa.
Canada’s new Liberal government has laid out its first proposed budget and it includes a $17.7 million biking and walking trail through the Pacific Rim National Park.
Tofino mayor Josie Osborne told the Westerly she was surprised and thrilled by the announcement.
“Local residents have wanted a walking and biking trail that connects the West Coast communities for as long as I have lived here,” she said. “Last year, when the Alberni Clayoquot Regional District [ACRD] conducted public engagement sessions on regional trails, the top interest from West Coast residents was ‘a path that connects Tofino and Ucluelet.’”
She said the proposed trail would be a valuable boost to both the local and visitor experience.
“The leg between Tofino and Long Beach has been of particular interest, because of the number of people who ride bicycles out to Long Beach, but of course a trail running the length of the Park is very much needed and very much welcomed,” she said.
“Not only is it a fantastic draw for visitors, and safer way for residents to cycle to beaches or to Ucluelet, but it also makes it much safer for Tla-o-qui-aht residents who might want to ride into Tofino for work.”
The trail’s announcement has ramped up Tofino’s efforts to complete a roughly 1,500-metre extension of its Multiple Use Path (MUP) to link the community to the Park.
“This traverses land within the [ACRD] and I am hopeful that the ACRD and district will be able to work together to undertake this,” Osborne said. “I know that the district staff is already turning its mind to funding possibilities, and with the path in the Park becoming a reality, this clearly moves the completion of the MUP high up on the list of opportunities and priorities.”
Ucluelet Mayor Dianne St. Jacques spoke to the announcement during last week’s regular council meeting.
“That’s wonderful news and congratulations to acting [Park] superintendent Jackie Godfrey and all of her staff for being successful in all of that,” she said.
She noted Ucluelet must now work on extending its bike path from the West Coast junction to the Park and she assured the district would work with the ACRD to get that project going.
NDP Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns told the Westerly that Ucluelet and Tofino have been pushing hard for a trail linking their towns for many years and he was happy to see the Liberals commit to building one.
“It is going to reshape tourism on the West Coast,” he said. “I’m a huge supporter of cycling tourism and I believe that it’s a really huge opportunity, so I’m very happy about that.”
Park spokesperson Meaghan Bradley said the trail is one of roughly $191 million worth of National Park investment projects the government has committed to including: an $85 million project to twin the Trans-Canada Highway through Yoho National Park, a $21 million highway paving project through Wood Buffalo National Park in the Northwest Territories and a $65 million trail in Jasper National Park.
“Parks Canada places belong to all Canadians. They represent the very best that Canada has to offer and tell the stories of who we are, including the history, cultures and contributions of Indigenous Peoples,” Bradley said.
“The Government is committed to investing in the revitalization of federal infrastructure assets including national parks and national historic sites for the benefit of all Canadians, from coast to coast to coast. These investments bring Canadians together to celebrate our rich and storied past.”