PENTICTON - Construction on the first phase of a new trail for the South Okanagan is set to begin next week.
The Trail of the Okanagans Society announced a planned construction start day of June 13 for a new recreational pathway on Highway 97. The trail will start at Lakeshore Drive travel south to Summerland RV Park.
The work is the first phase of plan that envisions a trail eventually running alongside Highway 97 through Trout Creek to Penticton. The trail will be constructed along unfinished highway right of way next to Okanagan Lake.
Construction will be carried out by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure with the hopes of having phase one completed by Aug. 7. It will terminate to a ramp leading off the pathway onto Landry Crescent in Trout Creek.
Trail of the Okanagans Founding Director Don Gemmell says phase one is a 'prototype test section' that came about as a result of MLA Dan Ashton and Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone’s efforts after hearing a presentation about the project last year.
“People are excited about this,” he says, adding the 1.3-kilometre project will provide access to 13 kilometres of trail around Summerland, and is the first step in a provincial promise to extend the trail to Penticton.
Gemmell says in announcing the project, Stone said once phase one was complete, phase two from Trout Creek to Penticton would get underway.
“The Trans Canada Trail is working towards a completion date in 2017. The Summerland to Penticton section of trail doesn’t exist yet, and I don’t expect the KVR trail between West Bench and Summerland to be available for public use in my lifetime, so this trail is one of two options, and the best one between Penticton and Summerland,” Gemmell says.
He says cycle tourism is going to be a big part of the region’s future, noting the industry is worth between $57 and $60 million to the Willamette Valley in Oregon. He says once the cycling infrastructure in the Okanagan matures, the industry could be worth $40 million annually here.
Phase one funding for the project comes through provincial funding of $400,000 and $100,000 from the District of Summerland.
Regional District Okanagan SImilkameen’s Community Services Manager Mark Woods saidsays the regional district fully supports the Trail of the Okanagans, calling it a 'wonderful idea — the more trails the better.'
However, he says the district is continuing to follow its long term goals and trails strategy by continuing work on the KVR trail between West Bench and Summerland. Woods says that portion of former KVR railbed was currently reverting back to Penticton Indian Band ownership after being controlled by Canadian Pacific. That process is currently ongoing, leaving the future use of the rail corridor up in the air right now.
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