First phase of Okanagan Rail Trail Corridor is expected to be open to the public next March. Image Credit: Ron Woitzik

Rail trail proceeding

First section of Okanagan Rail Corridor to open March 2018

Fourteen kilometres of the Okanagan Rail Trail Corridor will be open to the public by March 2018, says the project manager for the interjurisdictional development team in a report to Lake Country council.

Andrew Gibbs, a City of Kelowna planner, said drainage improvements, safe road crossings and compacted crushed aggregate will be undertaken starting this fall.

It will affect 2.5 km of the trail within the Regional District of North Okanagan, 2.5 km in Lake Country and nine km in Kelowna.

The opening will provide some potential relief for the public already accessing use of the trail now that all the railway rails, ties and switches have been removed, raising legal liability issues for local civic governments.

Gibbs says CN has completed its environment remediation obligations for the Okanagan Rail Trail, noting the initial corridor environmental assessment identified 67 areas of potential concern.

That excluded the portion of the trail falling with the Okanagan Indian Band reserve lands, which falls within the IR #7 section and doesn’t fall under municipal government jurisdiction.

Of the 67 areas, Gibbs says only 18 were determined to be on-site, meaning land owned by one of the municipal rail trail jurisdictions, and within the responsibility of CN to investigate further.

Of those 18, it was determined nine didn’t fall within CN’s assessment responsibility while the remaining nine were split in location between the Regional District of North Okanagan, City of Kelowna, and District of Lake Country.

The end remediation results were:

*RDNO: four sites in total, two registered no indication of contamination and two others remediated through excavation.

*Lake Country: two sites, one remediated through excavation and one through risk assessment.

* Kelowna: three sites, one had no contamination indications and two others remediated through risk assessment.

As for IR #7, environmental assessment and remediation efforts falls under federal jurisdiction through Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.

Gibbs says the 2.4 km of rail trail corridor through OKIB land is still under the ownership of CN Rail.

Ownership of the land must first be transferred to the federal government before it can be transferred again to the OKIB through the addition to reserve process.

Until such time as that happens and the band council is able to consult with band members about the future of this corridor section, Gibbs says there will be no development or use of it, with provision for necessary funds set aside to develop this potential rail trail section to the same standard as other sections under development.

Gibbs also noted in his report that since it began a year ago, the Okanagan

Rail Trail Initiative fundraising drive has collected $4,516,00 in donations and secured grants from Bike BC($777,435), BC Rural Dividend ($500,000) and Canada 150 ($471,500).

ORTI has targeted to real its fundraising target of $7.86 million by the end of this year, as the campaign theme will shift from “donate a meter” to “finish the trail.”