West Coast communities on path to joint trail

The Clayoquot Biosphere Trust is working towards bringing West Coast officials together to discuss the possibility of a path that would bring the West Coast together.

Ucluelet councillor Geoff Lyons- the district’s representative on the CBT board- told the Westerly News such a path would bring the communities together and provide an environmentally-friendly commuting option.

“Give people an opportunity to use bicycles instead of vehicles to get between the two communities and enjoy both sides of the peninsula so to speak,” he said. “And take them off the highway, which is narrow and dangerous and full of tourists who don’t always concentrate on considering cyclists.” He said the path has been on the minds of local governments since he served as Ucluelet’s CAO in the early 2000’s and the idea started hatching quicker as Ucluelet’s Wild Pacific Trail and Tofino’s Multiple Use Path began taking shape.

“There’s a lot of people who live in Ucluelet because it’s cheaper and work in Tofino and/or the resorts there and they don’t have vehicles so if they could get to and from work on a bicycle it attracts and promotes the green living that were trying to promote,” Lyons said.

The path idea was brought back to the forefront recently when Lyon’s noticed the water-line work being done within the Pacific Rim National Park.

He noted the bike path leading into Ucluelet was created when Ucluelet was conducting its own water-line work and this cut costs because the area was being dug up anyway. He suggested a similar strategy could have been followed within the Park.

Park superintendent Jim Morgan told the Westerly News creating a path would not have fit within the Park’s recent water-line work.

“The water line was replaced using a ‘pipe push’ method underground that does not cause any surface disruption,” he said. “Since the work was done primarily underground, there wasn’t an opportunity to build a trail along the length of the waterline.”

While the water-line work was an inappropriate fit for a path’s installation, it provided a vehicle for Lyons to raise the issue during a recent CBT meeting where he said he was told by a Park representative “that there is extremely complex federal parks capital and infrastructure constraints.”

Through this conversation, Lyons was able to initiate the CBT’s work towards organizing a meeting.

“The CBT is attempting to host a meeting with all the communities First Nations, Tofino Ucluelet and the (Alberni Clayoquot) Regional District so we can better understand the constraints and challenges that Parks have before they can simply say ‘good idea lets build a multiple use path,'” he said.

He is hopeful the pending conversations will be fruitful and noted he has spoken to several Tofino councillors about the idea and they seem to be on board.

“Parks Canada understands that the districts of Tofino and Ucluelet are interested in seeing a trail, adjacent to the highway, connecting their two communities to the Park,” said Jim Morgan. “We generally support the concept, but need to fully assess the potential impact of the proposed trail. We look forward to working with the communities to further explore this idea.”

Lyons believes there could be opportunities for federal, provincial and local government support to create a “multi contributor asset,” where everybody wins.

“Is it realistic? We live in hope,” he said. “As the traffic and the development grows around here let’s hope we can bring the whole peninsula into one unified point.”