As construction is set to wrap up for Pelmewash Parkway at the end of October, a business owner on the road expects to see a record number of visitors next season.
Alan Gatzke, owner of Gatzke Orchard and president of Tourism Lake Country, said the Visitor Centre’s numbers, which is also located at his orchard on Pelmewash Parkway, were lower because of construction this summer.
“I’m glad that it’s done, because the impact on our business is significant, we’ve already noticed. I think we’ll see more from Pelmewash this year because of the construction… but with the rail trail and Pelmewash being open next year, I have confidence that we’ll surpass our business activity that we had prior to what we had with the highway relocating,” said Gatzke. “It’s got that much of an impact that we’ve already felt with the rail trail, boat launch and Pelmewash.”
Gatzke said this summer his store broke previous sales records.
The improvements made to the old highway that connects Winfield and Oyama turned the corridor from its former use into “an amenity-rich multi-modal corridor and integrated linear park space,” according to the District of Lake Country. The road’s ownership was transferred from the province to the district earlier this year.
Multi-use path, roadworks, parking and recreation amenities are expected to be complete by the end of August. Landscape restoration will be complete by the end of October. Phase 1 of the construction consists of: removal and disposal of some existing asphalt, road realignment including some new road construction, the construction of a bicycle lane, asphalt repair and resurfacing, and landscaping enhancements including the construction of a boat launch, bike fix-it stations, improved lake access and the placement of benches.
The bike lane along Pelmewash, which starts at Pretty Road, connects the district with the Okanagan Rail Trail and creates a full circuit around Wood Lake.
The cost of construction was $3 million including design and construction according to project manager Steve Petryshyn, and $150,000 will be spent annually to maintain the road.
Petryshyn said in the future there will be discussions about adding a roundabout at Pelmewash and Oyama Road and creating more space against the lake to create a parklike area. He said another option is at the Cornwall subdivision to realign the road away from the lake to create a waterfront park.
Phases over the next 20 years for the construction of permanent washroom buildings and dock and pier structures closer to the south end are also planned in the district’s Parks and Recreation Master Plan.
Residents have complained for years about the maintenance along the road, with many reports citing a lack of garbage cans and cleanup.
According to Petryshyn, garbage cans are located along every park and picnic area. The district has also “accommodated parking along the old pullout areas, but those are areas where people can also launch kayaks and canoes,” he said.
“We’ve also relocated motorboat access to the water, there was a couple, previously that were well used but they were in high sensitivity kokanee spawning areas,” he said.
While Gatzke only had a few complaints about the project, he said he is concerned with the growing number of cars and lack of parking in the area and a section of road near Winfield that could have falling rocks. He said a section north of the Pelmewash Parkway plan could be used for parking for Okanagan Rail Trail and Pelmewash Parkway riders.
“It’s an interesting asset that would make awesome rail trail parking. This summer, because we run the visitor centre and collect data and information, on Sundays and Wednesdays I went across the isthmus counting cars and trails and there were a number of days there were 160 to 190 cars parked along the isthmus, not including the boat launch, or the Oyama store” he said.
“If Oyama is a natural trailhead for both of those assets, parking is an issue in the future. Some of the parking that did happen was near some beautiful old trees near (the Oyama Community Hall) that I fear are at risk,” Gatzke said. “I’d like to see those protected.”
“None of the work to date has looked at that northern section… but it’s certainly something that could be considered. We’d have to observe and assess the parking situation at both Pelmewash Parkway and the Okanagan Rail Trail and see what’s required,” Petryshyn said.
“It’s something we’ve looked at, the old section of highway to the north is much larger than it needs to be now that it’s a local road, and we have to consider what that space could be in the future,” he said.
The rocks are not a concern, as the road was built to engineer specifications, Petryshyn said.