Oyama Traditional School students hold together the pieces of ribbon that were snipped during the grand opening of the Okangan Rail Trail Thursday morning at the Oyama Boat Launch. - Carli Berry/Capital News

Lake Country now paying interest for Okanagan Rail Trail

The district failed to pay back Kelowna for its investment in three years

Since the three-year deadline has passed for Lake Country to repay Kelowna for its investment in part of the district’s section of the Okanagan Rail Trail, interest is now accruing.

A deal was made between the municipalities in 2015, as the district purchased the rail trail lands through its borders at a cost of $5.2 million, a contentious purchase that went to the public twice in 2015. First, an Alternate Approval Process failed before the district went to a full referendum, which passed in April of 2015.

“The Lake Country portion… $2.6 million of that was paid for by the City of Kelowna in exchange for 50 per cent interest in the property, so we have a 50 per cent interest on title in the lands that are registered in Lake Country,” said Kelowna city manager Doug Gilchrist.

The district planned to sell portions of land near Gable Beach to pay off some of Kelowna’s interest in rail trail lands, but that motion was defeated by council after residents fought against it for the conservation of public beach access. Approximately $1.1 million of the proposed sale would have gone towards reducing Kelowna’s interest.

READ MORE: Gable Beach and the Okanagan Rail Trail

“To date, they’re working on it, but we haven’t been paid yet,” said Gilchrist. “We would hope they follow through on their commitment to pay the city back. Obviously, we have other priorities that we could be allocating to our own citizens to see that funding so we’re anxious to see that repaid.”

“We haven’t made any sort of hard and fast requests for payment at this time,” he said.

The trail was purchased for $22 million from CN Rail and split between Kelowna, Lake Country, the Okanagan Indian Band and the Regional District of the North Okanagan.

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

The district’s strategic and support services manager Matt Vader did not give details on what is in the works for Lake Country but said he is positive about the progress the district is making.

Lake Country’s intention had been to sell a surplus of railway properties.

“We’re talking about surplus to the railroad right of way so there were lands that had accrued to the railroad because of greater right of way width that isn’t necessary for the trail, so we have to raise those of separate titles and then be sold,” said Mayor James Baker.

Despite the trail’s grand opening Thursday at the Oyama Boat Launch, three sections of trail remain closed: at the beginning of Kelowna’s section, on Okanagan Indian Band land between Kelowna and Lake Country and in the North Okanagan’s end section.

Dogs are to remain on leash on the trail, and horses have been banned, despite protests from Lake Country residents.

READ MORE: Lake Country residents rally for horses on Okanagan Rail Trail

The communities fundraised $7.8 million for the project in just three years.

@carliberry_
carli.berry@kelownacapnews.com

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