A proposed trail from Peachland to West Kelowna could change the way more than 200,000 people travel across the Okanagan Valley.
Known as Trail 2000, proponents of the 20-kilometre trail want to build a seamless route along the western edge of Okanagan Lake that will eventually connect with the Okanagan Rail Trail, a route that sees 25,000 visitors annually travel from Kelowna to Vernon.
While portions of proposed trail have already been completed along the waterfront at Gellatly Bay in West Kelowna, the majority of it remains unbuilt and unfunded.
Bruce Dalrymple, president of the Gellatly Bay Trails and Parks Society, said his organization has been working on the project for nearly 20 years and is eager to complete it.
However, he readily admits it could still be years away.
“We’ve been working on the trail since the year 2000,” said Dalrymple.
“I have no idea when it will be done because we have to get everything approved…and we’re talking an expensive project to get funding.”
While it will likely be many more years before the trail is approved and funding secured, the proposed trail is expected to head south of William R. Bennett Bridge along Campbell Road to Kalamoir Park in West Kelowna.
From the park, the trail will follow Sunnyside and Boucherie Roads to Gellatly Bay before reaching Goats Peak Regional Park.
From there, a separated trail is proposed to be built below and adjacent to Highway 97 from the connector to Peachland.
“Our group is working with ministry to allow us to build a trail below Highway 97 from Seclusion Bay Road to Drought Road (in Peachland),” said Dalrymple.
“The road used to be the old 97 back in the ’50s. Now, it’s just a little street that services about four or five houses.”
He said the biggest obstacle preventing people from cycling from Peachland to West Kelowna is Drought Hill, just before the Highway 97 connector.
“It’s impossible to get out of Peachland with a bike. A few people have tried and one person was almost killed trying to ride up,” said Dalrymple.
“If you have two trucks heading up the road, there’s no room.
“The whole road from Osoyoos to Kelowna, the most dangerous part is coming out of Peachland up to Drought Hill.”
In order to complete the trail, he said discussions will also need to be held with landowners because several sections of the trail pass through private property.
To try and resolve some of those challenges, West Kelowna Mayor Gord Milsom recently met with Peachland Mayor Cindy Fortin and other provincial officials at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities at Vancouver in September.
“We discussed significant challenges with the portion of the trail between Seclusion Bay Road and Robson Place in Peachland, just past where the trail leaves West Kelowna,” said Milsom.
The area between the two roads is forested and is directly adjacent to Highway 97 on Okanagan Lake and there is no established path connecting the two roads.
In order to build that section of the proposed trail, Milsom said the ministry of transportation and infrastructure will need to provide a right-of-way.
“We talked to the ministry about working together to obtain the right-of-way as soon as possible to connect these sections of the trail, bringing us closer to the goal of Trail 2000.”
Another big obstacle to overcome will also be the cost to complete the project, which according to West Kelowna councillor Rick de Jong won’t be cheap.
“The project is in the hands of the provincial government,” said de Jong.
“The B.C. government said that there would be a lot of geotechnical work in the area. We would need about $200,000 to finish the trail.”
While the trail might still be in its infancy, once it’s built the project will connect an already impressive network of trails for Okanagan residents, including the Okanagan Rail Trail which runs from Kelowna to Vernon.
“It gives local residents and tourists another place where they can get out of their vehicles and go for a walk,” said de Jong.
“Its another trail for people to utilize and another trail that can help drive tourism going forward.”
While there is no time line for when the trail will be completed, de Jong said the trail is more than just an infrastructure project, it’s a way to connect communities.
“I think its a nice win-win for communities working together to build connections.”