March 31, 2015 - 1:07 PM
VERNON - A citizens group has committed to raising $5 million to build a rail trail from Vernon to Kelowna if local municipalities secure the land.
Brad Clements of the Okanagan Rail Trail Initiative says several community members have already expressed interest in making donations toward the creation of the trail.
“People say, 'Let us know when it’s time for us to write a cheque,'” Clements says. “We don’t want to take any money until we know the future of the corridor.”
Two anonymous supporters recently pledged a total of $350,000 toward the trail construction, which Clements estimates will cost around $7.2 million.
“With the support we’ve seen from people, we’re confident we can raise $5 million in a community campaign. The reason we’ll go up to that amount is there’s a number of programs through foundations and federal government programs where they’ll match dollars for community infrastructure projects. We’re pretty sure that ($5 million) can turn into $10 million pretty quickly,” Clements says.
While local municipalities inked a purchase agreement with CN Rail for the 47.5 km long corridor in December, the sale is not yet a done deal. Lake Country goes to referendum April 25 for its portion of the $22 million deal, and the Okanagan Indian band recently filed a land claim for a large portion of the corridor.
“We always knew it would be a complex process, we knew unknowns would come along the way,” Clements says. “But what I keep seeing is strong support for this vision of a transportation corridor that will remain intact. I think everyone has that common vision, we just have to figure our way through these twists and turns in our journey to get there.”
Clements says the Rail Trail Initiative has received over 10,000 emails of support and is confident it will be no trouble coming up with the $5 million when the time comes.
“What we’ve said to municipalities is if you guys can agree to buy the land, if you do that, we’ll help raise the money to turn it into the trail so there’s no more burden to the municipality or to the taxpayers,” Clements says.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015