The Horne Lake Connector may not be providing an alternate route out of Port Alberni anytime soon, but the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) is resuming planning and development of a historic, multi-use trail connecting Horne Lake and Port Alberni.
The RDN board is proposing an approximately 12 km trail.
The Horne Lake Regional Trail was first proposed back in 2001 during the final stages of approving the rezoning of lands surrounding Horne Lake, mostly as a way of preserving and celebrating the historic east-west trans Vancouver Island passageway that was used as a trade route between Qualicum and the First Nations people of the Alberni Valley.
It was this passageway where Adam Horne, a Hudson’s Bay Company employee, led the first crossing of mid-Vancouver Island by a European in 1856. The original route has largely disappeared from the landscape.
The Big Qualicum Bay Regional Trail links Qualicum Bay and Horne Lake, and there are multiple trails that run from Port Alberni to Horne Lake, but the problem, says RDN Parks and Trails coordinator Joan Michel, is that they are all on private property.
“It’s a sea of private property,” said Michel. “The only thing that’s public is that 1911 road.”
The 1911 road is a stretch of land preserved for future road development: a “road in theory,” according to Michel, created by some forward-thinking developers, although nothing has been done with the allowance despite the occasional effort to establish a road between Port Alberni and Horne Lake.
The historic multi-regional trail proposed in 2001 was originally planned to start at the Qualicum First Nation Reserve and finish in Port Alberni at tide-water in the Alberni Valley. But the project was set aside for more than a decade due to lack of a clear location and survey costs.
“We found out about the road in 2001,” said Michel. “We’re back at it, life got busy, it just got set aside.”
The first step in achieving this heritage trail will be the planning and development of the Horne Lake Regional Trail, starting with a trail plan and completion of a geo-technical feasibility and risk management study.
“We’re way at the beginning of a big project,” said Michel. “We’ve got some grant funding to do, some sleuthing to do. There are some tricky bits.”
This will be a multi-faceted project, involving multiple landowners and land access negotiations. The RDN plans to hold discussions with impacted First Nations, the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District, the province and private landowners to complete this trail, and move forward with an initiative to create a Sea to Sea, First Nation to First Nation BC Heritage Trail across Vancouver Island.
“It’s such a fantastic story, and a First Nations story. There’s all sorts of history to be told,” said Michel. “You guys have your McLean Mill and Log Train Trail. This is how we connect with you. It’s all about connections.”
The RDN hopes to achieve the completion of the new trail to safe footpath standards by 2020.