Okanagan trails group working for cross-border connection

Local cross-border trail?

A group of hiking and cycling trail enthusiasts in the South Okanagan is hoping to fulfill their grand vision of a connected local trail system with those over the border. 

The Trail of the Okanagans Society has worked since 2013 on local projects, including Phase One of the Summerland to Penticton lakeside paved pathway. 

Now they have their sights set on connecting their vision with fellow trail advocates in Okanogan (spelled differently in America) County, just over the border between Osoyoos and Oroville. 

“The proposed trail is in much demand.  Last year the Okanagan Rail Trail alone exceeded expectations when it blew through predictions by over 5 times in its first year of operations with almost 500,000 visits," said society representative Don Gemmell. 

A recent meeting in Osoyoos attracted 13 trail advocacy groups from Washington and British Columbia to discuss the possibility, brought together by an idea of Arnie Marchand, First Nations leader from Oroville, WA.  

"The people in the Okanogan down there and the people in the Okanagan here are doing the same work, they don’t even know each other. So I wanted to set up a face to face meeting to bring people together.  So we can start communicating," Marchand said. 

The society says a cross-border trail network would boost tourism on both sides of the border, and highlight First Nations history. 

"Long before the border, these trails linked their communities – this is an effort to reconnect in a tangible way," a news release reads. 

The plan would incorporate the existing border crossing on Highway 97 in Osoyoos/Oroville to allow for legal foot traffic between the nations.

Janice Liebe of the society said this is a crucial step toward a complete network all the way up the Okanagan Valley. 

“We are very close to having a fully connected trail north of Kelowna all the way to Sicamous. South of the Bennett Bridge there are approximately thirty smaller sections and some challenges due to terrain," she explained. 

"But there is a solution and a proposed route. All it needs is more active help by all levels of government and volunteer groups to help stitch the final stretches together. ”

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