ENDERBY - There’s been a significant advancement on the discontinued rail corridor between Armstrong and Sicamous.
Following lengthy negotiations with Canadian Pacific Rail and the federal government, the Splatsin First Nation has acquired 29.25 acres of land along the old rail corridor, which was shut down in 2009.
Splatsin Chief Wayne ‘Wunuxtin’ Christian says the band pressed CP and the federal government with legal action in 2011 for lack of consultation regarding the disposition of the abandoned line. The parties ultimately decided to negotiate out of court, discussions which culminated in the recent acquisition of land.
“The federal government never came onside to work with us, we had to move on our own with litigation,” Christian says.
The first parcel returning to Splatsin ownership is comprised of roughly six acres located just south Sicamous on the shores of Mara Lake, and the second is over 23 acres just south of the City of Enderby.
Christian says the remaining sections of the line are in the Secwepemc Nation’s traditional territory.
“We are asserting we have title and rights interests along that corridor,” Christian says.
Historical village sites and salmon habitats along the corridor make the land culturally significant to the Splatsin. The band will be working with all levels of government to establish its rights to the entire corridor. Christian says that will involve providing evidence of the Splatsin’s historical presence on the land.
The band is keen to take a lead role shaping the future of the corridor.
“We’ve been trying to find a way to work with the public as a whole as to what do we do with entire line,” he says. “We want to work collectively with everyone to create a solution for the benefit of all interests.”
The popular idea of a rail trail—potentially one connecting to the decommissioned line between Vernon and Kelowna, and onwards to the Kettle Valley Railroad—has been floated, but Christian says there are no finalized plans yet. He says the band isn’t opposed to a rail trail, but feels issues of liability to do with private properties bordering the corridor could be an obstacle.
“There are going to be challenges. That’s why we need a public process where everybody is in the room and we can have a dialogue,” Christian says.
To the south, Okanagan municipalities have finalized a deal with Canadian National Rail to buy the abandoned rail corridor between Vernon and Kelowna.
The Citizens for an Okanagan Rail Trail have been actively advocating for a recreational path from Vernon to Kelowna in tandem with the Shuswap Trail Alliance’s push for the same between Armstrong and Sicamous.
The Okanagan Indian band, meanwhile, has advanced a land claim on a large portion of the old CN line.
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