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JONESIE: If this rail trail fails, blame our local politicians

April 17, 2015 - 8:06 AM

This idea of a continuous trail from Vernon to Kelowna, and perhaps some day to Penticton, should be exciting for nearly everyone.

If you ever walked or rode the Kettle Valley Railway and trestles, you might get a sense of what it would be like to follow an even grade over the decommissioned CN Rail line along the shores of Kalamalka Lake and Wood Lake without fighting cars and highway traffic. 

But is anyone else starting to feel this slipping?

When this rail trail was first exposed to the public, you may recall it was shortly before a municipal election and everyone was talking about it. The only hurdle, we were left to believe, was getting the voters of Lake Country to sign on.

We already know how that’s going. Voters rejected the alternate approval process and we await the results of a full referendum. What happens if they reject it? Well, there is no alternate plan, we are told.

Talk to someone from Lake Country and you might understand their skepticism. It smells a little too much like a snow job. It’s not that they don’t appreciate the trail, but without more information, they are expecting another shoe to drop. 

Well, now I kind of understand how you are feeling out there, Lake Country. Who knew Christy Clark was going to swoop in with $7 million? Turns out that was part of the original purchase agreement, but it wasn't well known.

Now we also know the Lake Country vote isn’t the only impediment. We now know the consortium of municipalities buying the corridor expected the Okanagan Indian Band to contest the sale with a land claim, but said nothing until the band filed its suit in court. And now we know two private landowners in Oyama can, and very well may, scuttle this whole idea of a continuous trail. 

Why is this just coming out now? Why wasn’t this explained from the beginning? Was the consortium of municipalities hoping to buy the corridor just hoping to keep rose-coloured glasses over everyone’s eyes until Lake Country opts in?

Kinda makes you wonder if there is anything else they aren’t telling us, doesn’t it?

But what has me most concerned—and I think I share this with Lake Country as well—is that not one of the elected leaders out there is championing this cause.

The consortium seems to have left the talking points to Doug Gilchrist. He’s a fine guy but he’s a City of Kelowna employee, not an elected leader. Lake Country Mayor James Baker has lost half the battle on this and is playing defensive. How do you find yourself in a defensive position about a project described as one day as important to the Okanagan as Stanley Park is to Vancouver? By reacting instead of initiating, that's how.

North Okanagan Regional District chairman Rick Fairbairn has hardly said anything about the project from Day One.

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran is fine to answer a couple questions, but he’s taken a passive position and essentially given over responsibility to staff. What, is there something more important than a $22 million land purchase? One that wasn’t even contemplated five years ago?

The only ones trying to rally public support is a Lake Country citizens group and the Okanagan Rail Trail Society which has done everything right. How frustrating it will be for them if this thing is lost because our politicians are being lazy about this, sitting back, fuelling a skeptical public and letting nature take its course.

Will someone please stand up, take some responsibility, show some leadership and help make this thing happen? And before it’s too late.

— Marshall Jones is the editor of

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
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