Battle between hikers, bikers looms for West Kelowna trail | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source
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Battle between hikers, bikers looms for West Kelowna trail

Kalamoir Park is at the centre of a debate on whether it should remain as it is or host a vital link in the Trail of the Okanagan.

So often it’s motorists and cyclists at loggerheads. But a difficult West Kelowna connection to the Trail of the Okanagans is shaping up to be a battle between opposing views on the trail through Kalamoir Regional Park.

On the one hand, the Friends of Kalamoir Park are adamant that a multi-use cycling trail will not go through the park.

On the other hand, the Trails of the Okanagans doesn’t want cyclists to have to ride up the unsafe Boucherie Road as part of a route from Sicamous to Osoyoos that will mostly be on relatively flat old railway beds.

In the end, a third alternative may be possible – given enough money.

The conflict intensified recently after a post on the Friends of Kalamoir Park Facebook page praised the City of West Kelowna for pledging $3.9 million to build a trail from Quails' Gate Estate Winery to Green Bay on, or next to, Boucherie Road.

READ MORE: New cycling trail will roll through vineyards of West Kelowna

They see that as the way to keep the pathway out of the park.

“To make it a legal, multi-use trail, you’ve got to make it handicap safe and make it bike safe,” James Chivers-Wilson, president of the Friends of Kalamoir Park told iNFOnews.ca. “You’re basically destroying the park to do that.”

The existing park pathway overlooks Okanagan Lake and is the only undeveloped lakefront in Kelowna or West Kelowna, he said.

“Most of the trails, especially the trails that are on the Sunnyside end of the park, they’re too hilly, too narrow, they’re on steep slopes and they’ve got a lot of rocky outcrops,” Chivers-Wilson said. “You would basically have to bulldoze a path to make it wider and safer for recreational cyclists. It’s classified as a conservation park. It’s a park that’s supposed to be preserved to protect the natural environments there.”

The other alternative is to ride up Sneena Road from the William R. Bennett bridge in order to avoid Highway 97. That leads to Boucherie Road and a long climb up that busy road and down the south side.

“Sections of that are not built yet,” Janice Liebe, president of Trail of the Okanagans, told iNFOnews.ca. “There are some painted lines. That is so dangerous. Proof that they’re dangerous is that most of the lines are gone from people driving over them. The laneway is too narrow. I have ridden it once. I won’t do it again.”

READ MORE: Okanagan cycling advocate calls on province to design, fund bike trail networks

Multi-use pathways are defined in the Central Okanagan’s Regional Bicycling and Trails Master Plan as being off-road, accommodating travel in both directions and, ideally, four metres wide.

That plan was adopted in 2020.

“We’re glad to see the City of West Kelowna moving ahead with a proposed multi-use path along Boucherie Road,” the Friends of Kalamoir Park’s Facebook post reads. “This should alleviate our concern about a proposal to have a multi-use path developed in Kalamoir Park as part of the Trail of the Okanagans plan for a route from Sicamous south to Brewster, WA.”

Liebe has a different view on the Boucherie Road project.

“There’s nothing anyone has said, that we are aware of, that says that that trail is done in lieu of the plan to extend the trail from the bridge through Kalamoir and further on,” Liebe said.

Allen Fillion, general manager of engineering and public works for the City of West Kelowna, agrees with Liebe.

“The Trail of the Okanagans is still a high priority,” he told iNFOnews.ca. “This Boucherie work – that’s a very challenging section of the road. Safety – to get the pedestrians off there – is a real driver for that section.”

The regional district is currently drafting a new plan for the park. The last one was done in 2005.

Public consultation was completed earlier this year but the draft plan likely won’t be presented to the regional district board until late in the year, Wayne Darlington, the regional district’s manager of parks planning, said.

The trail through the park was upgraded and widened in 2009.

Darlington was non-committal about what the plan might recommend in terms of further upgrades to that trail to make it suitable for cycling.

“Anything is possible,” he said. “We need to figure out where the comments come from and where people stand.”

From the City of West Kelowna’s perspective, the park route is its preferred choice and there are no plans to improve the bike lanes on the north end of Boucherie Road.

Fillion pointed out that a multi-use bike lane is being built next to a Westbank First Nation project on Campbell Road.

“The hope is to tie into that for the city portion and connect in along Campbell Road and ultimately through Kalamoir Park,” Fillion said. “The Friends of Kalamoir Park met with us and we told them our desire was to have a fully accessible path through there."

He understood the major objection was to a paved pathway through the park and noted it doesn’t have to be paved to be accessible.

Of course, Chivers-Wilson disagrees, arguing that the existing trail should not be used for cycling.

“It’s a conservation area park and the whole objective is to keep it the way it is,” he said.

What may change the course of the dialogue is possible middle ground that’s currently being looked at as part of the proposed Sol Aqua housing development.

Once called Blackmun Bay, it was presented in 2017 as 740 units with towers up to 14 storeys. That triggered massive opposition from the Casa Loma Community Association who insisted, in part, that a second exit be created from the lakeside subdivision before any further development is allowed.

That project has now been renamed Sol Aqua and has been downsized to 60 units. Construction is contingent on a second emergency exit being created.

READ MORE: Massive Blackmun Bay housing project in West Kelowna scaled back by more than 80%

Therein may lie the compromise position between park and major roadway for cycling because there is an old roadway/path leading from Benedick Road. It’s at the south end of the Casa Loma subdivision and above the park.

It might be feasible to push that through, at least, to Collens Hill Road, which leads down into Kalamoir Park. The real challenge is getting it down to Sunnyside Road.

“There are definitely challenges on all the different routes,” Fillion said. “That doesn’t mean it can’t be done. I’m an engineer, so we’re used to saying you can do anything. It’s just how much money do you have to spend?”

A consultant is working with the city and the Sol Aqua developer looking at alternatives for, at least, an emergency exit from the Casa Loma subdivision. Fillion is making a bike route part of that discussion.

And there’s not necessarily just three options for cycling from the Bennett bridge to Green Bay.

“There might be more,” Fillion said. “There’s nothing really obvious sticking out. We’re just engaging with a consultant now and we said everything is on the table so, if there are any other ideas you guys can come up with, let’s consider everything.”

He expects some decision on the emergency exit to be made within the next couple of months. Then it’s up to the regional district to decide what Kalamoir Park’s ultimate role will be in a cycle route from Sicamous to Osoyoos.


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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