Vernon residents Dianne and Keith Hustler enjoy a walk on a section of the Okanagan Rail Trail which opened Saturday, July 29 off of McCarthy Road in Lake Country.—Image: Carli Berry/Capital News

Regional officials meet to talk about Okanagan Rail Trail

Future of the trail was discussed Friday by Kelowna, Lake Country, OIB, Vernon, Coldstream officials

How will the new Okanagan Rail Trail be governed?

That’s the question elected officials from from Kelowna, Lake Country, Okanagan Indian Band and Coldstream are grappling with.

Elected leaders from the participating jurisdictions with land ownership on the Okanagan Rail Trail met Friday to discuss options and goals for proceeding with a coordinated approach to governance, operation and administration of this regional rail trail.

As with other policy and financial decisions regarding the corridor, the elected political leaders of the owner jurisdictions will ultimately approve the coordinated governance model for the corridor.

“It was good to be involved in such a proactive meeting with other elected leaders from Okanagan Rail Trail owner jurisdictions today,” said Lake Country Coun. Blair Ireland. “As a public amenity, it is in the interests of all residents to have the local government owners of the corridor work to develop a coordinated approach. Having a meeting facilitator that specializes in governance was very helpful to keep the discussions focused.”

“The Regional District of North Okanagan appreciated the ability to talk with our partners, Kelowna, Lake Country, Okanagan Indian Band, Vernon and Coldstream on the development of a shared vision for the Okanagan Rail Trail and the opportunities for collaboration,” said Bob Fleming, Chairman of the RDNO. “We are excited about jointly achieving the full potential of this unique trail.”

“Local governments and the Province of B.C. have invested $22 million in the purchase of the discontinued CN rail corridor running from Coldstream to Kelowna and in doing so these communities and First Nations have committed to preserving this corridor as a multi-modal transportation link that will enhance the social, environmental and economic health of the region for generations to come,” said Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran.

“We are optimistic about this opportunity and look forward to working collaboratively with our local government partners of the North and Central Okanagan to capitalize on this valuable corridor link,” said Okanagan Indian Band Chief Byron Louis.

Public access and use of the undeveloped rail corridor varies somewhat by jurisdiction but the public is reminded to stay away from any active construction on the corridor and respect signage identifying work sites.

Open House events held in Lake Country, Kelowna and Coldstream in early October provided the public with an opportunity to learn more about the construction of approximately 26 kilometres of trail (12 kilometres in the RDNO, five kilometres in Lake Country and nine kilometres in Kelowna) anticipated for completion in next spring.

The remaining sections of the 48.5-kilometre trail will be built once funding and all the necessary approvals are in place. Except for a 2.4-kilometre section near Duck Lake that runs through the Okanagan Indian Band’s IR7 Reserve, it is possible that the initial development of the corridor could be completed by late 2018 or early 2019, say the partners. The remaining section would be completed at a future date, pending federal transfer of ownership of the land to the Okanagan Indian Band.

A community-based fundraising campaign by the Okanagan Rail Trail Initiative is underway to support the work required to design and build a continuous basic trail from Coldstream to Kelowna.

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