Tofino isn’t leaving any stone unturned in its search for funding to extend its Multi-Use Path.
The district has applied for $1 million of funding from the provincial government’s Cycling Infrastructure Partnership Program. That amount represents the maximum they can apply for but would still leave them $2.5 million short of what they need.
The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve’s $17.7 million bike path is currently slated to end roughly 2.5 kilometres short of Tofino and local officials estimate it will cost about $3.5 million to fill the gap.
“Unfortunately, the cost of connecting these trails is well beyond the financial means of the district,” wrote Tofino’s CAO Bob MacPherson in a Dec. 6 report to council. “The funding sources for the project have not been confirmed however, funding opportunities including partnerships with high levels of government are being explored.”
Tofino was caught off guard when the federal government announced the Park’s path plan and had no money put aside for a connection, according to MacPherson.
“While the federal announcement is cause for celebration on the West Coast, Tofino is now presented with a real challenge,” he wrote. “With competing infrastructure priorities and no prior indication of the Park’s trail project being on the horizon, the district has had little opportunity to plan for the $3.5 million capital investment.”
MacPherson wrote failing to complete the connection would push cyclists onto the “very narrow or non-existent shoulder,” from the Park to Cox Bay, where Tofino’s 6.5-kilometre MUP currently ends.
“Pedestrian and cyclist safety concerns with this particular stretch of provincial highway have been a long-standing subject between Tofino and the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and infrastructure,” he wrote.
Coun. Cathy Thicke wondered why a $3.5 million path was necessary and suggested extending the highways shoulders would do the trick at a cheaper price.
“It’s a huge huge job for 3.5 million…Are we being realistic?,” she asked. “I would be more in favour myself of just making sure there’s some shoulders there…For $1 million we could do probably just as much as we need to do.”
She added anyone commuting from the Park to Tofino should be able to ride on the road.
“If you’re going to cycle from Tofino to the Park and back that’s 34 kilometres,” she said. “You are not going to be doing that on a beach cruiser. You must have at least 10-21 speeds, or an electric bike. I don’t know why we’re shooting for the gold. Maybe that’s okay in everybody’s else’s estimation but I would personally just like to see the shoulders.”
Mayor Josie Osborne responded council had spoken to the provincial government about this and were told widening the shoulders would be a significant undertaking.
“I actually would not assume that that is cheaper than $3.5 million,” she said. “It’s a huge job either way.”
Thicke wondered why the district needed to come up with the money considering the path would stretch beyond Tofino’s borders across land owned by the province and the Alberni Clayoquot Regional District.
Osborne responded that right of ways are being worked out but much of the land is private and some belongs to the crown.
“It is within the ACRD’s jurisdiction but it still doesn’t actually involve the regional district it really involves the ministry of transportation, it’s provincial right of way,” she said. “This is going to require collaboration from all parties.”