July 08, 2014 - 9:21 AM
VERNON – The window of opportunity has closed for the federal government to buy the CN short line rail road between Vernon and Kelowna.
The Okanagan Rail Trail group has been lobbying to get rail bed converted into a multi-use pathway turning it into a major tourist attraction.
With no action from the feds, the provincial government now has a month to decide whether or not to buy the rail line.
The estimated price tag on the 50 kilometres of land is around $15 million, but converting the rail bed to a multi-use pathway would spin $3 million into the economy in the first year alone, according to a study by Okanagan Rail Trail.
If the B.C. government doesn’t come up with the cash, the local municipalities in the area will have 30 days to make an offer.
Meanwhile, the Okanagan Indian Band has asked the federal government to buy the rail line.
“A significant portion of the rail line falls within the OKIB’s Commonage Reserve set up by the Joint Reserve Commission of 1877,” chief Byron Louis said in a media release, “The Commonage Reserve was never lawfully surrendered or otherwise lawfully taken.”
Chief Louis says a letter has been sent to the federal minister of transportation Lisa Raitt.
The Okanagan People have waited for well over 100 years to have their concerns addressed by the federal government, Louis says.
“We have a strong case.”
The Rail Trail group supports the First Nations push to return the railway to reserve land.
“It’s another way of preserving the corridor and the natural beauty that surrounds it and the first step is preventing the corridor from being sold off in fragments,” the group said in a tweet.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014