A path is clearing for some trail work in Cumberland due to a partnership between the Village and local Rotarians.
The work is connected to a larger plan to connect Comox Lake with downtown, a project that is still on hold because of land negotiations.
At the regular Village of Cumberland meeting on Oct. 28, council approved a motion for staff to enter into an agreement with the Rotary Club of Cumberland Centennial for the Orchard Trail Improvement Project.
Rotary first approached the Village in 2015 about building a trail from Comox Lake to the core of downtown. The club and Village staff have been working on the “complementary partnership” to make improvements to the Orchard Trail.
Kevin McPhedran, parks and outdoor recreation coordinator, updated council at the latest meeting. The Orchard Trail represents a section of the proposed route. This all falls under the broader Paths to Recreation project that will reach Comox Lake, with the Orchard Trail stretch connecting the core of Cumberland to the Wellington Colliery Trail in Coal Creek Historic Park.
One of the issues holding things up has been the acquisition of some private land needed to provide a means for a bridge crossing at Perseverance Creek.
“That private land is currently under discussion,” McPhedran said. “We’re awaiting the outcomes of that process to determine whether it makes sense to invest further resources to work on building the trail, given that that crossing is kind of a crux in the project.”
The hope is for the land acquisition to happen in 2020. However, the arrangement would have to include a number of partners, including the regional district, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and the Komok’s First Nation.
The Orchard Trail agreement, while part of the bigger trail route, will allow for “on-the-ground” improvements in the area over the short term while the land deal is completed. Through the Orchard agreement, Rotary can make up to $4,000 available with matching funds available from the Village.
As a result, the 2019 parks budget has $3,315 for “Rotary Trail to Recreation Design and Engineering,” to be reallocated for the improvements over the short term as a result of the Orchard Trail agreement. “What we looked at is the trail informally known as Porky’s path,” McPhedran said.
Some on council were concerned about the idea of renaming the trail, though McPhedran clarified the Orchard Trail name would only cover a specific stretch, while the Porky’s name would be kept for the part between an alley and Comox Lake Road.
The intention of the work, he added, is not to change the character of the trail but to fix some drainage issues and make it more accessible. The plan is to proceed with the work this fall.
Coun. Vickey Brown said she uses the trail almost daily and had concerns about the extent of clearing planned – up to two metres.
“That feels really wide on that strip,” she said. “Keeping it narrow, I think, adds to the character of the trail.”
As well, while she had not seen actual bears, she has spotted scat and recommended signs or some form of education to make users aware of bears in the area and what times the area should be avoided.
“My concern would be that this is a major bear highway,” she said.
Coun. Jesse Ketler raised questions about the current stewardship agreement for the route. McPhedran responded there had been vandalism at a tool shed this past summer during which about $1,000 worth of tools was taken. However, these tools could be stored at the waterworks compound, though he said this arrangement is a “work in progress.”