Cycling groups wants Penticton to be a hub in an ambitious cross-border cycling path plan from Sicamous to Washington State

Ambitious bike trail plans

A local group with a vision for a cycling trail through the Okanagan Valley, across the border and beyond is looking to make Penticton a major hub, hoping the new Lake to Lake cycling route might have room for more additions in the future.

Trails of the Okanagans Society (TOTO) is part of a larger cross-border group hoping to connecting existing disparate cycle paths over 370 kilometres from Sicamous to Brewster, Washington.

TOTO is focused on the section from West Kelowna through to Osoyoos, and has local directors in each area.

They hope both to connect existing sections of trails along the east side of Okanagan Lake south to Osoyoos, as well as create a connection through Penticton to loop around to the west side.

"Cycle tourists like loops. A ride which follows the KVR from Myra Canyon in Kelowna to Penticton on the east side of the lake and returns via Summerland and Peachland on the west would be a huge draw. E-Bikes make these great rides accessible to a wide range of abilities," said Don Gemmell, one of the founding members of TOTO.

Brian Hughes is the representative for Penticton. He sees this as a real opportunity for Penticton to become a cycling hub, and thinks it is important for the city to design a path that links the new Lake to Lake route through the city to the KVR trailhead on the west side of Skaha Lake.

"Currently the Lake to Lake is designed to go down the existing bike path lanes on South Main,” Hughes

“[It's] as far as you can get from the KVR trailhead.”

While the Lake to Lake route has already been designed and construction is underway in its first phase downtown, Hughes hopes there is potential room for future extensions.

"A spur path could be created on Green Avenue which could cross the new bridge and link to the channel path and on to the trailhead," Hughes suggested.

"This would provide a safe route for cycling tourists to carry on to the border.”

Penticton general manager of community services Anthony Haddad could only comment generally at this stage, but said plans like TOTO's trail network are great for the community.

"The Trail of the Okanagans Society will play an important role in finding opportunities to connect the region from a cycling perspective. We look forward to working with them to identify opportunities to connect Penticton and its cycling infrastructure to the region," Haddad said in an email Wednesday.

"From an economic development and tourism perspective there are great opportunities to continue promoting the region as a cycling destination, building upon the success of our historical cycling events.”

The overall lengthy route to the border may seem impossible to implement, but existing paths up and down the valley actually account for an estimated 75 per cent of what infrastructure would be needed.

TOTO president Janice Liebe said work is ongoing on that connected vision.

"Our role is to coordinate the efforts of the various authorities having jurisdiction throughout the region. We have representatives from each area who identify issues specific to their community.”

For more information on TOTO, email trailokanagans.com.

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