Residents of the North Okanagan packed Coldstream council chambers Thursday afternoon to view concept plans for the Okanagan Rail Trail, stretching from Coldstream through Lake Country to Kelowna.
“I’m all for it,” said one woman. “This is the most exciting thing that’s come to the Okanagan in years.”
Members of an inter-jurisdictional development team, representing all the communities who bought the rail trail for $22 million, were on hand to explain the planning and design process.
“This is all about public feedback,” said Rick Fairbairn, chair of the North Okanagan Regional District board. “What I’ve heard about is the possibility of future development, not only from a commercial standpoint, but what it will mean for tourism in our community.”
Most people, however, seemed to be focused on walking or biking the almost 50 kilometres of trail.
“Everywhere you bike here, there are hills and cars. I can hardly wait,” said one person viewing the plans.
The line will be handed over to the new owners once CN Rail finishes taking out ties and spikes that still litter the ground. CN has until early 2017 to complete the work.
Feedback from four public sessions is to be incorporated into plans that are expected to go before councils and boards next month. The estimated cost of the project should also be in that package.
If accepted, it will be up to the public and community groups to pay for the trail’s development.
“(The interjurisdictional team) is willing to design it, but we have to pay for it,” said Brad Clements of the Okangan Rail Trail group. “We’re just going to be a voice of the trail, informing people that if we want the trail, we all need to reach into our pockets and raise the money to do so.”
The intention is to develop the corridor in phases, with the initial phase being construction of a gravel trail with road crossings, signage and barriers to provide a basic level of safe and accessible use by pedestrians and cyclists.