Proponents of the Okanagan Rail Trail Initiative get set for a publicity campaign and massive lobbying effort
An attempt to muster new life on Kelowna’s rail line is down to one business proposal and one community campaign to see the corridor become a trail.
Thursday afternoon Brad Clements, the college professor spearheading the Okanagan Rail Trail Initiative, confirmed CN Rail has put his group on alert there is only one business proposal being considered to see the rail line opened by a new service provider. Should it fail, the clock starts ticking for interested government bodies to secure the real estate for the public domain.
“Our end goal is to see it as a trail…So we’re trying to prove the benefit to the community of the recreational corridor,” said Clements, whose group is building momentum to lobby all three levels of government for a Kelowna-Vernon trail.
Under the process to decommission the line, the federal government, provincial government, transit authority and municipal governments affected each have 30 days—consecutively, in the order listed—to pitch for the property before CN can sell it to the highest bidder.
The Okanagan Rail Trail Initiative launched last fall with news Kelowna Pacific Railway, the operator leasing the line from CN, had collapsed due to financial turmoil and the corridor was likely to be sold.
Posting an online petition, Clements soon had plenty of signatures and financial backing. The initiative has secured enough funding from a private donor to hire three economists to do a benefits analysis on establishing a multi-use pathway from the Central Okanagan through to the North Okanagan, and is now gearing up for a serious publicity campaign to flush out more private donors and influence all three levels of government to secure the property.
“We’re not unrealistic; we know it’s going to take serious money,” said Clements, who is receiving strong support from cycling advocates throughout the region.
The trail proposal envisions a public trail corridor running from Kelowna to Vernon and potentially beyond.