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Spirit Trail taking shape across North Shore
A highly anticipated trail from Deep Cove to Horseshoe Bay that winds along the waterfront is likely another decade in the making, at least.
The Spirit Trail is slated to span North and West Vancouver, offering pedestrians and cyclists a route from one end of the North Shore to the other.
Although a timeline for completion hasn’t been firmly established, certain sections are expected to take upwards of 15 years to finish.
The whole project is budgeted at just under $47 million, but this number could quickly change because different plans are being tossed around, particularly in West Van.
When it’s finished, the trail is likely to be popular with North Shore residents judging by use already. Around 14,000 people a month already walk, bike and rollerblade on one section in North Van. Here’s what to expect next:
Cyclists can already be spotted speeding by on the Spirit Trail tucked behind Park Royal mall in West Van. This section of the trail connects Ambleside from 13th Street to the Capilano Reserve and Whonoak Road, where it meets up with the trail in North Van.
Other parts of the Spirit Trail, however, have proved to be much more difficult to build.
The area around Ambleside is in the midst of redevelopment, with many projects proposed but not yet approved. So this chaotic area is being left alone in favour of a large section close to Horseshoe Bay that is expected to be much easier to deal with.
“We would certainly like to start on [the Horseshoe Bay section] during the construction season next year,” said Raymond Fung, West Van’s director of engineering and transportation, adding this will depend on the result of a public consultation and the final design of the trail.
The estimated cost of $8.4 million for West Van’s portion of the trail will likely rise considerably, he told The Outlook in a phone interview.
In comparison, the District of North Vancouver predicts its section of the trail will be around $25 million, while the City of North Vancouver expects to spend $13.5 million. The municipalities are all seeking grants, such as those for cycling projects, that are expected to cover a large portion of the cost.
As for the section along Ambleside, nothing much is for certain at this point. A development application on the 1300-block of Marine Drive has made planning difficult, says Fung, along with the possibility of a new arts facility that would be located close to the waterfront, bringing more cars to the area.
The slow progress of construction has irritated some West Van councillors. “I don’t think the solution is to let it sit on the desk. It’s not going to solve itself,” said Coun. Craig Cameron at a meeting in October. “We need to press forward with some progress at least on the planning stages.”
Over in the city of North Van, construction is pushing along. The Spirit Trail is slated to be finished by 2015, meeting West Van on the west end and the district of North Van on the east.
The trail in the district of North Van, however, could take “upwards of 10 to 15 years” to complete, said the district’s spokeswoman Jeanine Bratina.
A section close to Lonsdale Quay and the SeaBus is in the planning stages, with a public consultation scheduled for spring 2013. Preliminary plans for another section along Bewicke Avenue near Mosquito Creek Marina were revealed last year and staff are working with the Squamish Nation and Mosquito Creek Marina to provide a connection to the Squamish Nation Greenway that runs along the waterfront near the Northshore Auto Mall.
“The challenge is always typography and land ownership. None of the municipalities own all the waterfront,” said Michael Hunter, the city’s manager of environment and parks.
But even so, a $3.6-million overpass was installed last summer over train tracks at East 1st Street and Mackay Avenue behind Capilano Mall. Other trails include a 1.5-kilometre nature-oriented trail that connects St. Patrick’s Avenue with 3rd Street.
“The goal is to make the trail as close to the waterfront as possible,” said Hunter, adding interim trails could be put in along roads while a permanent route is planned.
Planning for the Spirit Trail has proved difficult for all municipalities.
“For example, finding a route in the Lower Lynn area is challenging as space is limited, yet as the area redevelops, we are trying to take advantage of opportunities as they arise,” said Bratina.
“In other areas, the challenges involve crossing creeks or highways, which can be expensive.”
Similar to West Van’s approach to planning, the district is waiting for development applications to come in, particularly in the Maplewood and Lower Lynn areas.
Preliminary designs for most parts of the Spirit Trial will be showcased in open houses where the public can look at the planned routes and provide feedback.