OKANAGAN - Money is no longer an issue for a group of Okanagan municipalities preparing to purchase an abandoned rail corridor, but it could still be some time — years even — before residents set foot on a community pathway.
With Saturday’s referendum resulting in a resounding yes vote to borrow $2.6-million for the District of Lake Country’s share of a $22-million sales deal with CN Rail, municipalities are on track to buy the 47.5 km corridor by June 1, Kelowna real estate director Doug Gilchrist says.
By that point, CN Rail will still have at minimum a year of work removing the remaining track and rail ties from the land, and conducting environmental remediation, Gilchrist says.
“During that time, we will create an engagement steering committee, and start thinking about how to reach out and get feedback from citizens of the region and bring back recommendations on the design,” Gilchrist says.
The community’s vision for the trail will determine costs and how long it will take to build it, Gilchrist says, adding the design may vary throughout the region because the route goes through different landscapes, including farmland, industrial areas and riparian environments.
The Okanagan Rail Trail group has already pledged $5-million toward the actual trail construction, and local government will be looking at federal grants to make up the remaining dollars.
Municipalities still have to negotiate deals with two property owners who have right of first refusal to pieces of the corridor. Local government is currently engaged in discussions with one of the property owners, while the other, former Kelowna councillor Colin Day, has decided to exercise his right of first refusal and buy the land from CN.
Gilchrist says the municipalities will approach Day with an offer after they’ve acquired the rest of the track, and try to accommodate his interests.
“Municipalities do have the authority to acquire land without consent,” Gilchrist says. “That’s certainly not our hope. At this point, we’ll try to find an agreement. I don’t think we need to use that authority.”
Meanwhile, the Okanagan Indian Band continues to advance a land claim and civil lawsuit asserting its title rights to a portion of the corridor.
For past stories on the Okanagan Rail Corridor, click here.
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