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New Life for Historic Railway

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In what has been called an "historic agreement," a scenic stretch of railroad along the rugged coastline of British Columbia has been donated to a charitable community foundation ready to promote more environmentally friendly commuting and tourism.

The deal depended upon a huge array of community municipalities and citizen groups along Canada’s western coast working together for four years until they achieved non-profit status as the Island Corridor Foundation.

The Canadian Pacific Railway then handed over the 225 km (140 miles) of railway line between British Columbia’s capital Victoria and Vancouver Island, along with six historic stations, a number of spectacular trestles, 651 hectares (1600 acres) of property, and $2.3 million in cash (Canadian) for upgrades to the line. In return, the company received the full tax benefit due a $236 million charitable donation.

Vancouver Island is now one of North America’s premier tourist destinations and the deal’s backers see the line, which passes through some truly magnificent rainforest and rugged coastal scenery, as a major attraction for its nearly 1 million annual visitors.

In addition, Vancouver Island has undergone explosive growth (the population ballooned by 65 percent between 1981 and 2001 and now stands at nearly 700,000) and since the line runs through the heart of most of its major population centers, the future may well see it transformed into a commuter route linking the British Columbia capital and outlying bedroom/retirement communities.

The line had transported freight to Vancouver Island and was in steady decline until citizens began to develop the concept of using a community model to secure the railway right-of-way lands.

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