The federal government is donating $1.3 million to the development of the Okanagan Rail Trail.
“Stephen Fuhr, Member of Parliament for Kelowna–Lake Country, on behalf of the Honourable Amarjeet Sohi, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, was in Lake Country Thursday to announce the federal funding for the Okanagan Rail Trail project,” according to a Government of Canada news release.
“I am very proud that the federal government is supporting the Okanagan Rail Trail project. This is a great way to repurpose old infrastructure to meet current community needs. I very much look forward to seeing the many ways this project will enhance the lives of residents and support economic development throughout our beautiful region,” said Fuhr.
“The project involves converting 50 kilometres of unused CN Rail line into a multi-use recreational trail spanning four communities: the City of Kelowna, the District of Lake Country, the Okanagan Indian Band and the Regional District of the North Okanagan,” said the release.
Currently, no work is being done on the section of trail which runs through the Duck Lake Indian Reserve north of the Kelowna airport. Fuhr said the federal government is currently in the process of transferring the land to the OKIB and there is no set timeline when the land will be transferred.
“It hasn’t happened yet but everyone is aware of it and the process is working,” he said.
Project manager Andrew Gibbs, said the section of land on OKIB didn’t go through the same purchasing process as the other municipalities involved because of a federal railway act.
“The feds have to get the land from CN and then transfer the ownership through a federal process to the band. We don’t know how long it’s going to take… I’ve heard back yesterday that they’re trying to fast track it, but we still don’t have a date from them, but that’s good news,” he said.
The city has also reinforced no trespassing signs at the rail trail section next to the airport.
The trail was closed at both ends last year at the airport and the Indian Reserve boundary, said Gibbs. “When we first did it, it was a simple barrier and a friendly sign, but we’ve had to ramp it up because people have destroyed it or cut it… we’re trying to keep people out of trouble.”
He expects the rail trail will be completed by the end of the summer. In Kelowna, work is being completed from the airport to Dilworth Drive. The airport section will be completed at the same time as the band’s section, said Gibbs.
Construction of Lake Country’s section of trail continues from southern Kalamalka Lake, the Isthmus and Wood Lake and is on schedule said Matt Vader, District of Lake Country strategic and support services manager.
Garbage cans and portable toilets will be placed along the trail before the section of trail is opened, he said.
The trail is closed as construction continues, “I don’t have a completion date in terms of opening,” said Vader. Lake Country is also looking at selling parcels of land in order to pay off Kelowna’s interest in the Lake Country sections of trail. The district currently owes the City of Kelowna $2.5 million.
Once completed, the trail will stretch 48 km from Coldstream to Kelowna. Kelowna, Lake Country and the RDNO, along with the province paid $22 million for the former CN rail corridor.
Once the project is completed, families in these communities will be connected by a safe walking and biking trail they can use to get fit, explore nature and learn about their regional heritage. The rail trail will also be a great addition to the area’s tourist amenities, helping grow the economy and job opportunities for years to come, said the release.