Central Saanich working to prioritize its trails plan

A recent town hall meeting between Central Saanich and the public debated whether more sidewalks are needed.

Central Saanich is in the works of prioritizing a number of trails within the district and next up is a trail down Stelly’s X Road, from West Saanich down to the Tsartlip First Nation.

A recent town hall meeting between Central Saanich councillors and the public highlighted local trail projects, as well as debate over whether more sidewalks are needed.

“The question I have is that we have a large municipality geographically, stretching all the way from Island View Beach of course to Brentwood Bay,” said Councillor Zeb King during the Nov. 30 meeting, “and a population that’s not that large so a limited tax base. Would you prefer to see us focus on trails versus sidewalks if we could get more done for the amount of money that we have?”

King said if council takes their limited amount of money, they may only get a kilometre of sidewalk — but they could go further with that same amount of money for some sort of a wood chip or gravel trail.

“I’m a big fan of trails,” said resident Doug Hamilton. “I prefer them over sidewalks frankly. You can put gravel in front of my lot if you like. What we don’t have a lot in Central Saanich is trails. We don’t have a lot of linear parks and most other municipalities are going that way.

“It would really be nice if I could walk from Brentwood to Saanichton without actually walking on the road or on a concrete sidewalk.”

He added with more linear parks and more trails, more people are likely to go out walking.

“For my age group and the older group, it’s the number one athletic sporting exercise that we embark on, so I don’t think we can overstate the need to move in that direction.”

Coun. Carl Jensen said there’s a big difference in price between various trails. Concrete per metre is $179 to install and 53 cents to maintain, whereas wood chips are $48 per metre to install and  $1.59 per meter to maintain.

“So it’s kind of a balancing act for us in terms of when people say they would love sidewalks as was reinforced in that meeting,” Jensen said in an interview. “A kilometer of sidewalk will cost $179,000.”

One of the current challenges is location, as some trail construction may have to cross private property. For the proposed trail from Stelly’s X Road to Tsartlip, Central Saanich’s engineering department is working with the First Nation to determine what side of the street they want to use.

“It’s kind of a question of which side of the street the trail would reside on,” continued Jensen, “so as you can imagine if it’s on the south side of Stelly’s it’s on Central Saanich property, whereas if it’s on the north side, its on Tsartlip property.”

A concern for Jensen is allowing safe passage between the various neighbourhoods. Something he said he has heard a lot about is allowing kids to get safely to Stelly’s Secondary School, as there are no sidewalks nearby.

Coun. Alicia Cormier touched on accessibility for wheelchairs or people who have mobility issues, saying it would be good to know of any trouble spots.

“When we do have a new development proposal that comes forward, council does often hear from staff that are suggesting where we can make improvements to amenities such as sidewalks along the development area…”

She said, “I think wherever we can get connectivity and activity is something that we want to further as well.”

Council are also looking at other items on the trails priority list.

“What it’s doing essentially is creating a bit of a priority list of what we want to achieve,” Jensen continued, “and then what I find exciting about it is I think this will give us an avenue where council can identify future projects.

“We can add to the priority list and that way as things become apparent to us we can always work with engineering to see how we can slot that in to the priority list.”