George Galbraith holds his 16-month-old granddaughter Olive as he walks the Okanagan Rail Trail with his four-year-old grandson Oscar and supporters of the trail. (Jennifer Smith/Morning Star)

Gaps remain in plans for Okanagan Rail Trail

Kelowna - There are currently two sections of trail that don’t connect

The Okanagan Rail Trail may not be fully connected until 2020, if ever at all.

A report, which will be presented by the Okanagan Rail Trail Committee to Lake Country council Tuesday night, outlines the current status of the trail and highlights a few issues that have come up.

The Agricultural Land Commission has not approved 3.3 kilometres of section of trail that goes through the Eldorado Ranch in Kelowna, between the airport and Duck Lake Indian Reserve No. 7.

“The City of Kelowna and ORTC have requested a reconsideration of this decision by the ALC and are in discussion with the ALC and the owners of the ranch in order to secure ALC approval. Construction and public use of this section of rail trail would not be able to happen until after ALC approval is secured,” the report said.

Andrew Gibbs, said Kelowna hasn’t yet considered what would happen if the ALC doesn’t give the approval for the trail.

READ MORE: Okanagan Rail Trail opens

“I think this is our best bet. We’ve looked at some alternative routes, and none have really presented themselves as obvious solutions so we’re working hard to make this reconsideration happen,” he said.

“I don’t know that there’s a set time frame, we’ve put in a request for that and we’re going to follow up with some more information, from my understanding the land commission will consider that and get back to us.”

According to the ALC in its decision, the property owners at Eldorado Ranch could be negatively impacted by the trail with: trespassing, liability concerns for staff, moving equipment across the trail, inadequate fencing and the future need to run water lines and infrastructure access the trail.

However, the ALC also encouraged Kelowna and the landowners to create a fencing and buffering strategy.

“The Department of Indigenous Services Canada is also facilitating the transfer of corridor ownership from CN Rail to the Government of Canada and deemed the lands for the use and benefit of the Okanagan Indian Band, through the federal Addition to Reserve process,” the report to Lake Country council said.

The land transfer is expected to be completed by late 2019, or 2020.

Approximately $7.8 million was raised through fundraising and grant opportunities from 5,089 donors to develop the 49-kilometre trail, which stretches from Coldstream to Kelowna. The trail had an official opening in Oyama in September.

Lake Country also still owes Kelowna for Kelowna’s investment in Lake Country rail trail lands. Kelowna paid $2.6 million for Lake Country’s portion of rail trail lands and interest has been accruing on Kelowna’s investment since Lake Country failed to meet its three-year interest free deadline.

READ MORE: Lake Country now paying interest for Okanagan Rail Trail

Lake Country has about 16 kilometres of the 49 km trail running through its borders.

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