Two people on e-bikes cruise down the new ʔapsčiik t̓ašii multi-use trail in Pacific Rim National Park.

Photo Credit: Tourism Tofino

Build It And They Will Come: The ʔapsčiik t̓ašii

Leave the car in the lot and get into that forest

Why sit in traffic when you can feel the wind in your hair?

It’s beautiful. It’s forested. And it’s finally fully open. Though with the number of folks on the trail, you’d swear it had been open for ages.

The 25 km ʔapsčiik t̓ašii (ups-cheek ta-shee) walking and cycling path runs through the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. The paved pathway connects beaches in the national park south of Tofino and keeps folks safely away from cars.

And it took five years and almost $51 million in federal investment to get it up and running.

According to some Tofino locals, Parks Canada staffers were caught off guard when the Trudeau government announced the project back in 2016. The initial investment of $17.7 million. Then in 2017, Parks Canada kicked in $16.3 million through its Infrastructure Investment Program, and another $17 million in 2018.

The cost of the project grew over time, but that’s not a surprise. Karen Haugen is the park’s superintendent. Back in 2018, she told Westerly News that building a path in a National Park Reserve is “complex.”

“Parks Canada is truly committed to doing this in a respectful and sustainable way that mitigates any potential impacts on environment, wildlife and cultural heritage.”

The path winds through sensitive habitat and ecosystems in the narrow band of rainforest that’s protected by the national park. That meant thousands of hours of environmental consulting during design and construction to make sure things were disturbed as little as possible.

The Tla-o-qui-aht and Ucluelet nations provided guidance throughout the project and named the pathway ʔapsčiik t̓ašii, which means “going the right direction on the path.”

In late June, Tla-o-qui-aht Chief Elmer Frank told CTV News he is hopeful the path will be a symbol of the benefits that come from “working collaboratively together to achieve common goals.”

It could also be a big win for local tourism and transportation.

More than 1 million cars drive through the park every year. That creates traffic congestion and parking mayhem at peak times.

But the path will give visitors and locals a way to explore the park without driving the Peninsula Road between Tofino and Ucluelet. Folks can even rent e-bikes if the thought of pedalling 25 km is too much.

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve was established in 1970 when Justin’s father, Pierre, was Prime Minister. At the time, squatters were living on the beaches and it wasn’t until 1972 that Hwy 4 was fully paved.

The park measures 511 square kilometres and includes three units: the West Coast Trail, Broken Group Islands, and Long Beach.

The new trail traverses the entire Long Beach unit.