PENTICTON - A Summerland park which was recently recognized for its role in heritage conservation in the province could soon become part of a trail running from Sicamous to Osoyoos.
Trails of the Okanagans chair Henry Sielmann says the group would like to see a 250-kilometre trail linking the North and South Okanagan become a reality in the next five to 10 years.
The group has identified sections of the Okanagan where trail building needs to occur for this to happen, and has noted the section between Summerland and Peachland as a location where little is currently being done.
“We are the first group to look at connecting Summerland and Peachland through the Garnet Valley,” he says, noting he briefed the District of West Kelowna council on the group’s proposal earlier this week.
The connection would take place along a section of the Fur Brigade route, a trail that was used by European settlers to connect Fort Alexandria in the B.C. Interior with Fort Okanogan in Washington for the last 200 years, and by First Nations people for thousands of years.
“Summerland is the only community along the trails’ length to preserve a portion of the trail,” Sielmann says, noting the Garnet Valley and the trail within it parallel the Okanagan for approximately 20 kilometres.
Sielmann says the paved portion of the road, which is in poor repair, stretches for 13 kilometres before turning to a dirt road for another four kilometres, where the old settlement of Priest Camp was once located.
Garnet Valley Road will be resurfaced next year and a bike lane added.
From Priest Camp, users can walk or cycle a further four kilometres to the outlook, 400 metres above Okanagan Lake.
It is the next section, from the outlook to Hardy Creek south of Peachland, where trail improvements need to be made. The route can be travelled today, but is steep in sections and needs resurfacing from years of washouts and use by motorized vehicles.
Sielmann says the group’s plans have been discussed with local First Nations, who are in favour of the idea.
An event is being planned for May 8 which will see hikers from Peachland meet with cyclists from Summerland at the lookout in a gathering that will include a historian who will explain more about the historical significance of the trail.
A formal invitation is expected to be posted on the group’s Facebook page tomorrow, March 24.
Next steps for the group include fundraising for trail reconstruction then signage. Sielmann says the group hopes to have the work completed by next year.
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— This story was updated at 9 a.m., March 24, 2016 to correct information regarding the Trail of the Okanagans meeting with the District of West Kelowna, rather than Kelowna.
— This story was updated at 10:49 a.m., March 24, 2016 to correct timelines and references to settlers.