Letter: This is a ‘once only opportunity’

I have lived in the Okanagan for 72 years and this is the most exciting opportunity that I have seen in my lifetime.

To the editor:

I think that the purchase of the CNR rail bed, as a public transportation corridor linking Kelowna, Lake Country and Vernon (actually, Coldstream), is a wonderful opportunity.  I want to address Lake Country residents specifically because they will be paying more per capita than folks in other jurisdictions.

It is regrettable that the Okanagan has lost its rail service, but continual deterioration of car loadings made the bankruptcy of the short track operation inevitable. The Okanagan is isolated from major markets and consequently faces high transportation charges, making some manufacturing ventures uneconomic. Perhaps conditions will change for freight traffic or for rapid transit at some point in the future. One thing is certain. If the railway is sold off to private interests and private capital is spent developing those properties, no future government could afford to purchase the corridor. This is a once only opportunity.

The rail trail will benefit local people as a recreation property whether it is for hiking or biking, access to lakeshore and the lakes, a place to take visitors, protection of habitat for wildlife, or protection of our lakes from industrial and domestic pollution.

Public safety of our citizens is a reason why we must purchase and develop the trail. People who want to walk or cycle for shopping, schooling or recreation are often deterred because the Central Okanagan offers inadequate separation of highway traffic from pedestrians and cyclists.

Many university students and professors cannot take the chance of cycling to UBCO. Recreational riders must truck their bicycles to and from some safe staging area before riding.

Seniors who prefer level or near level grades with separation from vehicular traffic do not have the opportunity to move about our community safely and the consequent loss in health benefits is enormous.

And we know all too well that lives have been lost recently near George Elliot School because of inadequate separation of pedestrians from motor vehicles.

For all of these folks, safety is the paramount concern.

When developed, this transportation corridor (along with Pelmewash Parkway and the Spion Kop trails in Lake Country) will undoubtedly become a major world attraction. Newly retired folks with large discretionary incomes travel around the world to hike and bike and to visit tourist attractions, agro-tourist establishments, bed and breakfasts, restaurants, art galleries, wineries, retail stores, motels, fishing resorts, golf courses, and yes, bike shops.

And to think that the rail trail runs right past the door of the Kelowna International Airport. The high volume seasons for this international traffic are the spring and fall, during the shoulder seasons of our two traditional tourist seasons.

As residents know, the Okanagan has so much to offer during the blossom and harvest seasons and many of our annual visitors see none of that beauty. The best part of increased shoulder season traffic is that these visitors will patronize existing businesses, extending their seasons and making them more viable. Win, Win, Win.

The non-profit Okanagan Rail Trail Initiative recently commissioned an economic benefit analysis of the rail trail and the economists projected an increase in economic activity attributed to the rail trail to be $6.72 million annually within five years. These developments will  come from building new businesses and making others more sustainable. To examine that analysis go to http://okanaganrailtrail.ca. These figures do not include the health or safety benefits to the community or the sheer pleasure of living in such an accessible, lake-oriented community. Nor do they consider the possibility that proper marketing and branding could make the opportunities explode.

I see huge economic potential for the community of Lake Country that could well brand itself as the Tuscany of Canada. Lake Country can highlight its spectacular scenery, orchard and wine industries, rural lifestyle, agro-tourism, large capacity in restaurants and other tourist related facilities, wonderful hiking and biking opportunities and, of course, our spectacular lakes. Kalamalka Lake is one of the world’s natural marvels and it could easily become an icon for a burgeoning industry that is complementary to our existing economy.

I have lived in the Okanagan for 72 years and this is the most exciting opportunity that I have seen in my lifetime. Our grandchildren will thank us for our foresight if we preserve this magnificent corridor.

Duane Thomson,

Lake Country

 

 

Kelowna Capital News

Just Posted

With high temperatures forecasted for the week and into the next, Interior Health is offering some tips on how to keep yourself safe from heat-related illness. (Pixabay)
Interior Health offers safety tips as temperatures soar

“Too much heat can be harmful to your health.”

Central Okanagan Public Schools (File photo)
COVID-19 exposure identified at West Kelowna school

The site of the exposure has been identified as Shannon Lake Elementary School

A West Kelowna man was seriously injured in a single-vehicle collision early on Tuesday morning. (Black Press file photo)
Single vehicle collision seriously injures West Kelowna man

The man was driving a pickup truck that went off the road and caught on fire

(Pixabay photo)
Morning Start: Cheetahs can’t roar

Your morning start for Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Voix du Coeur is bringing music to seniors in retirement homes as restrictions slowly start to ease. (Twila Amato/Black Press Media)
Trio sings opera to Okanagan seniors as pandemic restrictions ease

Voix du Coeur travel around the Okanagan to bring the joy of music to seniors for free

Teenagers make their way to Truswell Road after a party is broken up by police at the end of Mission Creek (Lorraine Besner/Contributed).
Kelowna residents concerned about ongoing alleged underage beach parties

Public urination, property damage, drinking and drug usage have become weekly concerns

Penticton mayor John Vassilaki and Minister of Housing David Eby have been battling over the Victory Church shelter and BC Housing projects in the city. (File photos)
Penticton heads to court over homeless shelter as BC Housing audit begins

The city was not satisfied with the response from Minister David Eby regarding the ongoing situation

People enjoy the sun at Woodbine Beach on June 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin
BC Hydro assures customers it has ‘more than enough’ power to weather the heatwave

Despite an increase of pressure on the Western grid, blackouts are not expected like in some U.S. states

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Air Canada planes sit on the tarmac at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Pilots say no reason to continue quarantines for vaccinated international travellers

Prime minister says Canada still trying to limit number of incoming tourists

Six United Way chapters around the province are merging into United Way B.C. (News Bulletin file photo)
6 United Way chapters merging around B.C.

Money raised in communities will stay in those communities, agency says

Val Litwin is the latest candidate to declare his bid for the B.C. Liberal leadership. (Litwin campaign video)
Political newcomer joins contest for B.C. Liberal leadership

Val Litwin a former B.C. Chamber of Commerce CEO

A new air cleaning technology will be installed at Unisus School in Summerland. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
Virus cleaning pilot set for Unisus School in Summerland

Summerland-based lighting company to install technology at private school

Golden Ears Mountains, captured in May 2021. (Black Press Media files)
2nd year of day passes required for entry into 5 provincial parks launches in B.C.

Pilot program seeks to protect the environment by addressing visitor surges amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Most Read