By News Editor Aislinn Cottell

As many Nanaimoites will agree, the sea is an integral and deeply valued part of Vancouver Island life. And on July 1, Canada’s 150th birthday, residents and visitors will be given a new venue with which to explore its unique ecosystem and history.

The Trans Canada Trail (TCT) and BC Marine Trails Network Association (BCMTNA) have collaborated to come up with plans for a new blueway–a saltwater travel route designed for small paddlecraft and beachable boats–which will connect The Great Trail (previously the Trans Canada Trail) from Horseshoe Bay on the mainland to Kilometre Zero of the Trail at Clover Point in Victoria.

The route, designed to be environmentally friendly will extend 257 km along Victoria and the Saanich Peninsula, into the Gulf Islands, then north past Nanaimo through the Winchelsea and Ballenas islands, across to the Lasqueti and Texada Islands, then down the Sunshine Coast, across Howe Sound and end at Horseshoe Bay.

BCMTNA, a BC-based non-profit, has spearheaded the project. Formed in 2009, BCMTNA is an affiliation of 11 BC kayaking and paddling clubs, as well as private and business members, with the mandate to develop marine trails along the BC coast. They also preform conservation efforts, with volunteers preforming site assessments, inventories, and cleanups all along the coast.

Other partners in the Marine Trail project include the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea, which will provide the marine ecology interpretive component as the trail develops.

The Salish Sea Marine Trail will provide an opportunity not only to celebrate the rich ecology of the area, but also its important heritage, by following many of the traditional paddle routes used by Aboriginal peoples for fishing, hunting, and trading. The BCMTNA hopes to provide an interpretive program to represent these traditional territories as well, with the help of the Coast Salish communities whose history they share.

Aislinn is a third year Bachelor of Arts and Science student majoring in creative writing and minoring in chemistry. New to The Nav team this year, she’s enjoying finding out about all the interesting things happening on campus. Her hobbies include reading, drawing, Netflix, and the copious consumption of coffee.