A Vancouver Island recreational initiative may find common ground with the proposed ideas for the McLean Mill site.
The Vancouver Island Spine Trail Association (VISTA) hopes to build an inland public trail system from one end of Vancouver Island to the other. The volunteer group, now in its ninth year, has already completed 450 km of the planned 700 km wilderness route from Victoria to Cape Scott.
VISTA announced at their annual general meeting on March 8 that they plan to complete 75 per cent of the trail this year. Part of this includes a project along the crest of the Beaufort Range, which will involve cutting new trail and adding to it by clearing overgrown old logging roads, according to a press release on their website.
“We just need to obtain consent of forest companies that own the tops of the trails there,” said Steve Sterling, a volunteer with VISTA.
The Spine Trail works by building off of already-existing trail networks on the Island. Here in the Valley, the planned route would follow the Log Train Trail, and a trail bypass around the east side of Port Alberni connects to the Alberni Inlet Trail, under the jurisdiction of the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District.
Port Alberni Mayor Mike Ruttan, who attended the AGM, said at a March 27 meeting of council that a sub-trail could come down into the McLean Mill historic site.
“They see a lot of synergies between McLean Mill and what they’re wanting to do, and it’s a very interesting initiative,” he said.
McLean Mill is currently undergoing a number of changes, one of which is the planned addition of campsites.
“If it happens, it would be beneficial,” said Sterling. “It would give us access to the Beaufort section of the trail, and it would be an option for people who want to camp there.”
Sterling agreed that a campsite would be of “mutual benefit” for both parties.
“One hundred percent we’re in support of connecting,” said McLean Mill Society executive director Deanna Beaudoin. “For us, a trail network has always been part of the plan.”
Beaudoin said that the McLean Mill Society hopes to attract more of the camping community with rustic tenting spots and campsites. “It’s an excellent stopping point where hikers can rest for a moment,” she said.
Of the Spine Trail network, Beaudoin said, “It’s a really good tourist opportunity for the whole of Vancouver Island. If that all goes through, I’ll be very happy.”