Rail trail fundraising

Municipal and tribal councils in the valley will soon get initial development and fundraising plans for the Okanagan Rail Trail corridor.

The trail will be built on the nearly 50 kilometres of former CN Rail track purchased last year by Kelowna, Lake Country, Coldstream and the Regional District of North Okanagan.

The Okanagan Indian Band joined the inter-jurisdictional development team last month.

Team spokesman Andrew Gibbs with the City of Kelowna updated Kelowna council on the process on Monday.

Development, Gibbs said, is preliminary at this point.

"We are trying to scope out what work is involved and how much that will cost so we can use that to form the fundraising plan that will follow," said Gibbs.

"It will address issues of alignment, what the design is, what the surface treatment is, how we are going to address the road crossings and signs, and it will deal with phasing and costs."

A series of open houses will be held next week to get feedback as to what the trail could include.

Gibbs said several consulting firms have made their services available and are assisting in different aspects of the process.

Initially, Gibbs said the trail will be gravel-based and about four metres wide.

That could change as funds become available.

Those funds are expected to come from a fundraising campaign spearheaded by the Okanagan Rail Trail Initiative, a society of interested parties based out of Vernon.

Gibbs said the team is trying to take advantage of public interest in donating money for development of the trail. They are also hoping the federal government may kick in some funds as well.

"While our consulting team is working on a trail development plan, the ORTI is working on a fundraising plan.

"Our next step will bring forward the consultant's rail trail development plan and the fundraising plan to all the councils in mid-April."

As for the initial trail base, Gibbs said the intention is to use a gravel material similar to what would be used for an asphalt road base.

"In the future," he said, "we can come along and asphalt over that without a lot of site prep."

CN Rail still has work to do along the corridor.

Crews are expected to return in April to complete ripping up the track and, in June, they will start pulling up the rail from road crossings and patching those with asphalt.

Once CN is finished its work, the development team will be free to begin construction.

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran said it is important for people to remember the top priority was to secure the corridor so it was safe, and free from development.

"I think there is an expectation, somewhat wrongly, that this was then going to be built overnight and people would have immediate access to it," said Basran.

"Legacy projects like this don't happen overnight. If they do, it's at a significant impact to taxation. We've heard loud and clear from many members of the public that this is something they would truly like to get behind."


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