Preserving rail corridor a top priority
Oct 25, 2013 / 2:20 pm
A Vernon economist believes CN Rail's decision to begin the process of abandoning the railway between Vernon and Kelowna is an opportunity local governments can't pass up.
Brad Clements has formed "Okanagan Rail Trail" in hopes the rail corridor can be transformed into a community asset that will provide benefits to residents and visitors alike, now and in the future.
"Or, we can allow this transportation corridor and last natural lakefront access to be sold for private use," says Clements.
CN Rail recently began the abandonment process after deciding not to re-open the line after the previous operator, Kelowna Pacific Railway, went into receivership in July.
The railway has issued a Notice of Discontinuance which expires Dec 2. If a viable operator does not come forward by that date then the rail corridor would be offered to various levels of government.
Each government (federal, provincial, transit authority and municipal) would have 30 days to decide whether it has an interest in purchasing the rail corridor.
Clements believes Vernon, Lake Country and Kelowna along with the two regional districts and the federal and provincial governments need to get on the same page with regards to the corridor.
"We can't have Vernon going to the province or the feds saying we want the section up north, Lake Country wanting the section in between and Kelowna wanting their section," says Clements.
"Worse than that is we don't want two or three municipal governments approaching CN. The odds are if we don't work together a lot of it will end up not going anywhere and CN will rip the tracks out and sell it to the highest bidder."
Clements says he believes CN will want $20M or more for the corridor.
"That's why we need to show all the communities are in support of it then that will increase the odds of the Province and Feds coming together. That's the only way we will be able to get it. The municipal governments wouldn't be able to buy it."
Clements says his 'Okanagan Rail Trail' group has begun to grow slowly with support from Vernon down to Kelowna.
He says they are willing to pony up for an economic analysis. Over the past week, Clements says the group has raised about $30,000.
"Let's say it is $20M - yes that's a lot of money but it's a wise investment because here's what it will provide. It's tourism dollars and it becomes part of community identity, reduces infrastructure costs elsewhere."
Clements does add that the intent of the group is to ensure the railway line is considered a community pathway or transportation corridor only it the railway is abandoned.
"We do support the businesses that utilize the railway and will support an organization who wishes to take over operations of the railway."
If you wish further information on the group, you can email [email protected]
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