Parks Canada announced an additional $17 million of funding towards the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve’s ʔapsčiik t̓ašii trail last week, bringing the project’s total estimated cost to $51 million.
“This is being committed to ensure the ʔapsčiik t̓ašii (pronounced pronounced Ups-cheek ta-shee) is a strong example of environmentally and culturally responsible trail building,” Park Reserve superintendent Karen Haugen told the Westerly News.
The project was launched in 2016 and the federal government initially announced $17.7 million to develop the 25-kilometre paved multi-use path that will span the entire Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. The project received $16.3 million in 2017 through Parks Canada’s Infrastructure Investment Program, which is also where this year’s $17 million investment will come from.
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“As project specifications and requirements have become more defined, cost estimates have also been refined,” Haugen said. “Building a path in a National Park Reserve is a complex undertaking and Parks Canada is truly committed to doing this in a respectful and sustainable way that mitigates any potential impacts on environment, wildlife and cultural heritage.”
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She said Parks Canada has been working with the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation and Ucluelet First Nation to better understand the environment and cultural heritage of the land the ʔapsčiik t̓ašii trail will run through.
“We were finding numbers of different indigenous and settler cultural sites within the Park Reserve,” she said. “We had to reroute in many incidences.”
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She added that the Park Reserve’s Long Beach Unit had never undergone a full archaeological study before.
“These are all new discoveries,” she said. “We have been able to work with our indigenous partners as well as work with our own archaeologists to really understand the history and lay of the land.”
She added the cultural sites being discovered will become part of the story the trail will tell to visitors.
“We can educate people. We can help tell the story of our region and that it was something very fascinating and something very exciting,” she said. “Working with the First Nations has been so instrumental in the development of this trail and we look forward to working with the Nations to protect and present these culturally significant areas…We are going to end up with an amazing major trail for this region.”
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Construction on the trail is currently on pause as Parks Canada is completing tendering and designs for the next phase of work, expected to begin in early spring.
Haugen acknowledged that the work, which is expected to include the removal of approximately 2,000 trees within the Park Reserve, has been tough for residents to see.
“Everything starts off looking really hard, but the end result is going to be something wonderful,” she said citing 2016’s bridge installation work on Wick Road as an example.
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“It was really devastating to see the construction, but now you look at it and it’s a conservation gain for the Park Reserve when you see all of those salmon going through, you see wildlife interacting in that area and you see people being able to cross over very safely without having any impact on the environment. The trail can do the same thing.”
She added the wood from the cleared trees has been donated to local First Nations and will also be used within the trail itself for boardwalks, railings and artwork.
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“Once complete the ʔapsčiik t̓ašii will offer visitors a safe, sustainable and accessible multi-use path, all while protecting the ecological and culturally sensitive environment found in the park reserve. Visitors and locals alike will have an accessible multi-use path to explore the wonders of the National Park Reserve and to visit the amazing beaches we have in this region,” she said.
“By taking some additional time now, we can protect the environment and cultural heritage and ensure Canadians will be able to enjoy the new multi-use path for generations to come.”
She said information sessions for West Coast residents are being planned for early 2019.
The trail is expected to be completed in 2020.
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