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Rotary Trail a community effort

Port McNeill Rotary Club President Kathy Nelson prepares to cut the ribbon opening the new Rotary Trail as many of the trail’s builders and donors look on Wednesday, Oct. 3.  - Photo by J.R. Rardon
Port McNeill Rotary Club President Kathy Nelson prepares to cut the ribbon opening the new Rotary Trail as many of the trail’s builders and donors look on Wednesday, Oct. 3.
— image credit: Photo by J.R. Rardon

With the snip of a scissors through ribbon, Port McNeill Rotary Club last week officially unveiled its latest community project.

And released its many donors to a winter of peace and quiet.

“I want to thank you all for your help,” project manager Dave Nelson told a large crowd invited to an outdoor lunch at the ribbon-cutting. He then drew laughter by adding, “And you’re all off the hook until next spring.”

The Rotary Trail, a wide, smooth path of crushed gravel running alongside Campbell Way from the town to the junction with Highway 19, was a nearly $60,000 project that drew support from a wide range of North Vancouver Island boosters and businesses.

It was the second major project undertaken by the club this year, following the installation of six seniors housing units on Grenville Place in early spring.

“We think it’s an asset, and we’re not done yet,” said Nelson, who said the trail could eventually be extended alongside the highway to East Main, then loop back into town to eventually connect with Broughton Campground and the existing Schoolhouse Trail.

Even before the trail was completed in late September, it was getting regular use by individuals walking dogs, couples, women pushing strollers and, occasionally, local wildlife.

“I’ve had a couple of people tell me they’ve seen bears walking on it,” councillor Shirley Ackland said during a recent meeting of the town council.

Though the north-south Rotary Trail currently terminates at the highway, it does connect to an existing east-west rough trail popular with mountain bikers and which runs several kilometres to Port McNeill Airport and on to the beach before curling back to town.

It also serves as a focal point for both residents and visitors driving between the highway and town. The work of clearing and levelling the pathway, which follow’s the town’s water main right-of-way, involved clearing and removing large amounts of cluttered undergrowth and, with assistance from BC Hydro, several “danger” trees bordering both the trail and the power lines running parallel to it.

The low, boggy section of land nearest the highway was filled with material donated from Windsor Plywood’s new construction site downtown, and Nelson credited a wide range of other North Island contractors and organizations with providing in-kind services, equipment and material, including Cliff West and Bill Milligan, Howard Saunders, V-Echo Restorations, Port Hardy Bulldozer, Herb Saunders Construction, Orca Sand and Gravel, Western Forest Products, Furney Distributing and West Coast Trucking.

“It seemed like everyone came out to lend a hand,” said Nelson.

Most of the backhoe and machine work was performed by Mickey Brown and the father-son duo of Stu and Jason Abernethy of Abernethy Contracting.

The younger Abernethy gave North Island MP John Duncan a quick backhoe operating lesson while Duncan was in town to present Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medals to several Port McNeill and Alert Bay residents.

“We had applied to the Western Diversification Fund for a grant,” Nelson said.

“After Minister Duncan’s visit, that application apparently made it off a desk in Campbell River and found its way to Ottawa.”

The various supporters and donors were treated to lunch under a large canopy set up alongside the trail’s entrance. Afterward, some of them chose to walk off the meal with a pleasant stroll.

“Yesterday, somebody saw a kindergarten class out for a walk here,” said Shelley Downey.

“I think it’s a great addition to the community, and it will be nice when it’s completed all the way through town.”

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