With the use of the popular Cowichan Valley Trail up more than 38 per cent in 2020 over the previous year, work to improve a section of the trail is being planned.
At its meeting on Feb. 24, the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s board unanimously approved a funding application for a $250,000 federal grant for a project that would see a 4.85 km section of the trail between Sooke Lake Road and Butler Road in Shawnigan Lake widened and resurfaced.
A staff report from Brian Farquhar, the CVRD’s manager of parks and trails, said that section of the trail is one of the few remaining sections that doesn’t currently meet the CVRD’s established accessibility trail standards.
He said to meet the standards, the trail section must be widened to three metres to accommodate walkers, hikers, equestrians and cyclists, as well as being resurfaced with all-weather material.
“The increased usable width will allow for greater physical distancing between users when passing,” Farquhar said.
“Trail improvements will also encourage greater public recreation use of the trail year-round, as the CVRD is seeing on other sections of the Cowichan Valley Trail.”
Farquhar said the CVT saw 523,374 trail-use visits recorded in 2020, an increase of 38.2 per cent over the previous year, which was partly due to the major improvements and new sections of trail added over the last couple of years by the CVRD.
The CVT is a multi-use trail that is an integral part of the Trans Canada Trail route on southern Vancouver Island.
The Cowichan Valley section, which is maintained by the CVRD, runs from the Capital Regional District boundary at the top of the Malahat, north to Shawnigan Lake and the Kinsol Trestle, west to the Town of Lake Cowichan then north to the Nanaimo Regional District.
The grant application to improve the 4.85 km section of the trail between Sooke Lake Road and Butler Road will be submitted to the Canada Healthy Communities Initiative Grant Program, which supports communities to create and adapt public spaces in response to ongoing needs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CHCI will support 100 per cent of the project costs, if the application is approved, with a maximum amount of $250,000 per project application.
There are two application rounds, and the CVRD may apply to the second round if unsuccessful during the first round, which has a submission deadline of March 9.
The second-round submission deadline is June 25.