Letter: Mayor asks for careful consideration of rail corridor purchase

I encourage all Lake Country residents to carefully consider the impact of this decision on our community today, and in the future.

To the editor:

With less than one week left before the close of the CN Rail Corridor Alternative Approval Process (AAP) I encourage all Lake Country residents to carefully consider the impact of this decision on our community today, and in the future.

Acquisition of the CN Rail Corridor is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to provide our community with a real legacy that is much more than a transportation corridor or hiking trail- it’s a public land asset that will benefit our children and their children.

The participation  of multiple government partners means that our community will gain land and future infrastructure that we could not achieve on our own.

Borrowing for the corridor acquisition means that current municipal infrastructure plans remain in place with no change or reprioritization of budget allocations for things like water,roadways and pedestrian safety. We build roads and sidewalks every year and those programs are not affected by this borrowing plan. The timing of this opportunity is beyond our control, so we can only control whether we seize it.

Some people may ask if we can afford the cost, but the real question to me is can we afford not to?

Lake Country is one of the fastest growing regions in the area,as are the adjacent communities and we need to plan proactively to manage this growth.  With the potential for a return on investment to increase our tax base, enhance existing businesses, encourage the growth of small businesses and increase the livability of Lake Country, this corridor will be a tremendous asset for taxpayers today and for generations to come.

With Lake Country midway between Kelowna and Vernon it is well-positioned to benefit the most over the long­ run. The Okanagan is not just one community; one success is a success for all. Our residents benefit from an international airport, large farmers markets and the wine routes. Lake Country needs to give people more reasons to choose to live, do business and visit, and the Okanagan corridor can play a fundamental role in enhancing the local business and lifestyle options.

There is no Plan B. If local governments are not successful in purchasing the corridor it could be sold off in parcels to private interests. This would mean losing control over 16 kilometres of prime, linear real estate in our community; much of it beautiful waterfront that our residents or visitors cannot access now, and most likely never would if sold privately.

We continue to be confident that senior levels of government will provide financial assistance which will make our dollars go further if we act now. These efforts reduce the demand on taxation and create lasting legacies for communities.

It is unprecedented for the City of Kelowna to offer to pay half of Lake Country’s overall commitment in order to make this as affordable to our citizens as possible.

There is no repayment schedule or obligation to purchase back. It is anticipated that  through the sale of surplus lands Lake Country could buy back Kelowna’s interest without any impact  on taxation.

Small groups of community advocates have made a huge difference in preserving corridors that are unquestioned assets in the valley today: the Beach Avenue boardwalk in Peachland was driven by Rotary contributions,the Mission Creek Greenway in Kelowna was driven by Friends of Mission Creek Society volunteers, the Myra Canyon trestles  on the KVR were opened by Myra Canyon Trestle Restoration Society volunteers, the Gellatly Bay Waterfront walkway  was driven by the volunteer Trail and Parks Society, and numerous recreational paths in Lake Country have been spearheaded by Walk Around  Lake Country (WALC) volunteers.

Twenty years is a long time  for a taxpayer,but not such a long time  for a community. The decision we make on this matter will say a lot about how individuals in Lake Country feel about investing in our community. I hope residents  look forward with  optimism for our future and support investment in this unprecedented opportunity.

James Baker,

Mayor of Lake Country


Kelowna Capital News

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