A trail from Sicamous to Osoyoos depends on West Kelowna to Peachland problem | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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A trail from Sicamous to Osoyoos depends on West Kelowna to Peachland problem

This is part of existing rough trail that avoids Highway 97 on Drought Hill. The hope is that it can be part of new three-metre wide cycling/hiking trail connecting Peachland to West Kelowna.
Image Credit: Submitted/Trail of the Okanagans Society

While there are many challenges to completing the 370 km dream of a cycling-walking trail from Sicamous to the U.S. border, there may be none tougher than a two kilometre stretch along Highway 97 up Drought Hill from Peachland to West Kelowna.

But organizers are working on a plan.

“We are looking hard at trying to figure out how to make the connection between Peachland and West Kelowna,” Janice Liebe, president of the Trails of the Okanagans Society told iNFOnews.ca. “There’s some very difficult stretches. We actually nicknamed it ‘between a rock and a highway.’”

The idea is to create a three metres wide trail from the end of Buchanan Road in Peachland, within the highway right-of-way but off the highway, in order to link with Goat's Peak Regional Park.

“In that area, there’s some steep terrain and some loose fill from the embankment from the highway and there’s very little room between the highway and where there’s private property,” Liebe said.

In 2019, Gellatly Bay Trails and Parks Society President Bruce Dalrymple told iNFOnews.ca that he had proposed a $200,000 retaining wall below the highway for a pathway but the province insisted it be anchored to bedrock, which could cost $6 million, effectively killing that option.

READ MORE: We are so close to a rail trail connecting Osoyoos to Sicamous

More recently, Liebe had a geotechnical engineer explore the area and came up with a new approach that was recently presented to the Ministry of Transportation and elicited enough positive response for the society to proceed with more detailed design.

“We’ve come up with some new ideas using micropiles that go through the fill and potentially stabilize it,” Liebe said. “One of the options would be to build a trestle on top of that for about 200 metres.”

There would also have to be three retaining walls that would each be about 200 metres long and there is a field within the highway right-of-way that can have a trail traverse back and forth for an easier ride.

The trail could run from Buchanan Road (near the Davis Cove Resort) in Peachland to Goats Peak Regional Park below the Highway 97/Okanagan Connector interchange.
The trail could run from Buchanan Road (near the Davis Cove Resort) in Peachland to Goats Peak Regional Park below the Highway 97/Okanagan Connector interchange.
Image Credit: Google Maps

There is already a roughed-in trail part of the way up the hill that people have been building and maintaining for the last 15 years in order to avoid the high speed traffic along Highway 97, especially where the bike lane narrows considerably.

“These are not inexpensive solutions but they are ones that will work,” Liebe said. “At this point, what we’re trying to do is come to some sort of agreement on how to structurally build the trail."

Then it will come down to determining the cost and how to raise the funds.

She has no idea what that cost might be.

“If we don’t’ find a way of bridging his little bit of trail, then the whole trail doesn’t work because we’re trying to make this connection of 370 kilometres from Sicamous down to Brewster Wash.,” Liebe said. “This will be the most technically challenging piece so the cost of it, we would argue, needs to amortized over the entire 370 km.”

Most of the trail is, or will be, on abandoned rail lines so it will be fairly flat with much of it already in public ownership. But there never was a rail line from West Kelowna to Summerland so that stretch is particularly challenging.

Liebe doesn’t know how long this process will take but noted that, when it came time to fundraise for the 50-kilometre Okanagan Rail Trail from Kelowna to Coldstream, that came together very fast.

Even if this piece could be put into place and the connection made to Goat's Peak park, there’s still a short piece from the park down to Gellatly Bay that’s through private land.

She’s hoping to hear soon that something has been worked out there.

The connection from Peachland to Summerland is also challenging and a route around Vaseux Lake is problematic because senior governments consider the existing rail trial on the west side of that lake to be an environmentally sensitive area.

The society had planned, earlier this year, to fund an economic impact study to demonstrate the need for making these connections between a bunch of local trails and something that will attract international cycle tourists.

READ MORE: Okanagan rail trails great for locals but could be better for business, tourists

But, after talking to other like-minded groups, they’ve dropped that idea since the economic impact study done for the Okanagan Rail Trail clearly demonstrated that there’s huge economic benefits to a much longer route.

“We are certainly trying to build on the idea that this is a bigger vision,” Liebe said. “We don’t want to just talk about the section between Peachland and West Kelowna. We keep emphasizing that this is a key piece in connecting this 370 kilometres. I think there would be a real benefit in bringing all of the MLAs together for the Okanagan, to talk about the benefit of this to the entire Valley and build support that way.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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