January 22, 2016 - 3:30 PM
PENTICTON - The provincial government's suggestion of a four way partnership to develop a roadside trail from Trout Creek to Penticton alongside Highway 97 has run into a roadblock at the regional district level.
The route along the highway is not location favoured by the Okanagan Similkameen Regional District board of directors. They have been working to secure tenure to the former Kettle Valley railbed.
Chief administrative officer Bill Newell says the province met with the regional district, the District of Summerland and the City of Penticton earlier this month to discuss how the four governments could move forward with the multi-use trail which opened last fall between Summerland and Trout Creek.
The Summerland to Trout Creek section cost $860,000 to construct, not including engineering or environmental work. It is estimated the cost to complete the Trout Creek to Penticton portion of the trail could be as high as $7.8 million.
The province outlined plans to complete a master plan prior to proceeding with construction, a $30,000 cost to the regional district to be allocated to the nearly finalized 2016 budget.
Newell says Summerland and Penticton would be paying twice under the arrangement, due to their relationship as municipal partners within the regional district.
He says the “mechanism doesn’t seem equitable” adding he wasn’t sure public interest lay in building the connecting trail along the highway. He notes “serious cyclists tend to use the road” even along the completed portion of the trail from Summerland to Trout Creek.
Community services manager Mark Woods says it was among the regional district’s guiding principles to get the trail away from highways and roads, their preference being to follow the KVR's former railed. Woods says negotiations with the Penticton Indian Band were proceeding, but the band had not yet acquired clear title to the portions of trail sought by the regional district, which include a section from Summerland to Kaleden.
Directors almost unanimously agreed with staff, with several expressing concerns over how the board could politely turn down the province’s initiative.
Penticton mayor Andrew Jakubeit says he would rather see the trail secured along the KVR line, describing the route as a better one for destination tourism, while Area “D” director Tom Siddon called the highway route “inhospitable.”
West Bench director Michael Brydon says funding the highway route would rob the budget of funds necessary to finish the KVR connection, which he envisioned would extend one day from Summerland to Penticton, with a connecting trail across the channel to Penticton.
Newell also notes the trail along the highway was not useable in winter due to debris, snow and ice accumulations from highway snowplowing and maintenance. He says the province would not undertake the project without all four partners involved.
The directors opted to decline the invitation to participate in funding a master plan for a multi-use trail between Summerland and Penticton.
Last Monday, Penticton City Council tabled a staff recommendation to take on a one quarter partnership in the development of a master plan for the Summerland to Penticton multi-use trail with the addition of $38,000 into the 2016 capital budget to cover the city’s share of the cost.
Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said council tabled the issue pending a presentation by the Trail of the Okanagans group.
Trail of the Okanagans chair Henry Sielmann says the group is planning to meet on Feb. 4 with the mayors of Summerland and Penticton, the regional district, the Ministry of Transportation and tourism representatives regarding plans and funding options to extend the pathway south of Trout Creek.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016