The Rotary Club’s 14 years of effort to restore Rushbrook Trail is expected to pay off by the end of 2017.
The trail was decommissioned by the City of Prince Rupert in 2003 after a large boulder fell onto the trail following a heavy rainfall. To warn determined walkers, the city posted an ominous sign that reads — “Trail closed indefinitely due to slide.”
On Thursday, April 13, Bill Nicholls — the Rotarian who has been unwavering in his pursuit to restore the trail for the community — presented a history and future of Rushbrook Trail to the Rotary Club.
CN ran trains along the trail and after closing the rail line in 1985, it donated the 1,500 metre-long ready-made path to the city. The path is adjacent to 40 metre vertical rock bluffs and skirts the harbour — where the occasional humpback whale may be spotted.
The trail was popular until the boulder fell.
“From 2003-2004 the Rotary Club put their heads together to see if they could reopen the trail,” Nicholls said. Stabilizing the hillside is a key part of their project, as well as including signage and benches to improve the trail.
From 2004-2008, the Rotary Club raised $352,000, developed the design to relocate the trail away from the hillside, include three bridges and put 300 lock-blocks to catch rocks.
“We brought it right to the stage where we could put it to tender,” Nicholls said.
But another road block halted the report. WorkSafe BC required a risk assessment on the cliff face by the trail. At the time, Rotary estimated the study would cost between $800,000 and $2-million and the club didn’t have enough money to continue.
The club had to shelve the project after four years of volunteer efforts and $65,000 of project development work. Thousands of dollars in grant money had to be returned, as well as the lock-blocks the Rotary had acquired.
The project was resurrected in 2012 when the city lost more waterfront access with the construction of the pellet terminal.
Support for the trail project began to flow once again, and the Port of Prince Rupert donated $10,000 to the club to refresh all their reports on the trail.
By September 2015, the Rotary Club had collected $675,000 — enough funds to support moving forward with the trail. But the city was unable to support the endeavour.
“With ongoing maintenance of the trail, the city financially couldn’t participate, only on an in-kind basis,” Nicholls said.
Instead, Rotary partnered with the newly formed Kaien Island Trail Enhancement and Recreation Society (KITEARS), who will maintain the trail. As a society, they could lease the land around Rushbrook Trail from the city for $1 a year.
The trail is expected to cost approximately $15,000 a year to maintain. Rotary and KITEARS have set up a long-term maintenance fund and they will continue to search out funding partners.
At the Rotary Club luncheon, Nicholls gave a preview of plans for the trail, and the work McElhanney Consulting has been doing as project manager.
“Parking is a gong show at the Rushbrook side so we’re going to focus on the trail at the other end by Seal Cove,” Nicholls said.
The trail will avoid the vertical rock faceand the inoperative train tracks.
The development and costs of the project are still being determined but Rotary expects to settle on a contractor by mid-May with the restoration of the trail ready for the public by the end of 2017.