A zoning bylaw amendment required to allow work to begin on the Sicamous portion of the Shuswap North Okanagan Rail Trail was recently voted down by the Sicamous district council.

Some residents are disheartened by the decision and are pushing for council to reconsider. 

Leanne Hamilton has lived in Sicamous for two decades and owns a business there.

“The consensus on the street is (the rail trail is) the biggest economic booster we’ll see here,” Hamilton said. “Sicamous is in need of more tourism, this would put us on the map and most residents are wanting to use the trail for a healthier lifestyle.”

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Rezoning is required on properties along the rail trail to allow its construction.

In a public hearing at a regular district of Sicamous meeting, Feb. 14, several residents living along the proposed trail brought forward their concerns about the zoning amendment bylaw required to go ahead with the project.

Property owners on Mara Lake are unhappy with the crossing agreements they’ve been offered that will allow them to keep using their docks. The rail trail project is administered by the Splatsin te Secwépemc, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District and the Regional District of North Okanagan.

Some residents asked the rezoning decision be put on pause until a new crossing agreement was made.

“They need to rezone the property where there are 23 homes that have docks,” Hamilton said. “The regional district owns the property between them and the water and they’re not happy with what the agreements are."

Other concerns include the lack of public trail head access, safety of tourists crossing the heavy traffic on the Bruhn Bridge to access the trail and lack of adequate parking among others. Ultimately the proposed zoning bylaw amendment was voted down.

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Hamilton said she was shocked with the decision and fears if the rezoning isn't put through fast enough, the trail will be started somewhere else.

“Some people didn’t bother showing up to the hearing, we thought the trail was already a done deal,” she said. “Four councillors said we’re not going to rezone it at this time, so when will it happen? What does that mean if its too far for us to get to?”

Hamilton is spending a few days driving around and speaking to members of the community about the issue. She started an online petition on Feb. 20 and has over 100 signatures on it so far. She plans to present her petition to the district in an effort to put the rezoning amendment back on the agenda.

“I want to show council there is a huge population who wants this,” she said. “The bridge isn’t in great shape, there are questions about access, but one councillor said let’s just put the car in first gear and get started."

She said the trail is an opportunity for economic growth, promotes healthy living and will increase tourism and local business revenue.

Sicamous chief administrative officer Kelly Bennet said while the public hearing for the zoning bylaw is concluded she welcomes public engagement including petitions. 

When asked if there was a chance the trail will never reach Sicamous, Bennet said she couldn't answer that. 

"We are still processing, we haven't sat down with the ownership group, we don't have next steps yet." 

The Shuswap North Okanagan Rail Trail is a proposed 50 kilometre non-motorized trail for walking and cycling that will connect Armstrong to Sicamous along an abandoned rail corridor. The first section of the trail connecting Enderby to the Splatsin First Nation was completed in December.

The project aims to encourage active lifestyles and preserve the rich heritage within Secwepemc territory. 

Go here to sign to sign the petition.

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