Salmon Arm  

Columbia Shuswap Regional District says Mara Lake dock owners' rail trail claims blatantly false

Dock claims 'laughable'

A group of Mara Lake property owners is claiming the Columbia Shuswap Regional District has no plans to build a public rail trail along the lake and instead is secretly planning a multimillion "commuter train mega-project."

The CSRD, meanwhile, says the claims are laughable and untrue.

A press release from the BC Dock Owners Coalition alleges that communities from Sicamous to Armstrong have been "misled by (the) promise of a walking trail that will instead see Mara Lake industrialized for transit purposes."

The group claims that despite months of promoting the Shuswap North Okanagan Rail Trail, the district plans instead to rebuild the old CP railway along the western shore of Mara Lake.

For its proof, the coalition offers the revised licence and upland consent agreement the district is asking landowners across the right of way from the lake to sign.

The document is an updated version of the previous agreement between landowners and CPR, which granted them access across the rail corridor to their docks.

Part of the document states: "The licensee acknowledges that the licence area is situated within the owner's lands, a portion of which is used to actively operate a public trail, and which the owner may in the future, utilize as part of a transportation corridor (such as for commuter rail) and that the owner's ability to safely and efficiently operate same is paramount."

The CSRD, Regional District of North Okanagan, and Splatsin te Secwépemc are the current owners of the corridor, which was purchased with the intent of building the rail trail.

CSRD chief administrative officer Charles Hamilton says he was "disappointed" to see the dock owners' latest tactic.

He called the allegations "blatant false rumours with the aim of deceiving the public."

Hamilton said the group's objective would appear to be "achieving privatization of public lands for their own interest and enhancing their property values."

He noted while the group has enlisted a law firm in its fight, no lawsuit has been launched.

Its actions would appear at this point to be sabre rattling.

As to the group's claims the consent agreement points to future construction of a rail line, he responded: "absolutely not."

The coalition fears the 22 property owners would be cut off from their water access, lowering property values.

It also blasts rail trail construction costs that have soared from a planned $13 million to nearly $23 million.

"These expenditures are likely driven by a level of engineering not necessary for a simple hiking area, but one which would make sense for an operational railway carrying railcars and people," it alleges.

The rail trail will run from Sicamous to Armstrong when complete. Funding is ongoing for the first section from Sicamous to Mara. Its costs have risen due to erosion along the lake and the need for a highway crossing closer to Armstrong.

"This is no longer just a Mara Lake problem. It's a Shuswap problem and a North Okanagan problem," the coalition alleges.

"This is getting ridiculous," Hamilton responded. "It would be funny if it wasn't so disappointing."

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