Completion of Okanagan Rail Trail's missing link finally in sight | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Completion of Okanagan Rail Trail's missing link finally in sight

FILE PHOTO - A fence on the Kelowna side of the Okanagan Rail Trail has a sign warning users the section heading to Lake Country is closed.

The timeline for a completed Okanagan Rail Trail is becoming clearer with important paperwork expected to be complete before summer.

The Rail Trail between Vernon and Kelowna is missing one important piece near the Kelowna International Airport, and there's no way for cyclists to get around it. That piece can't be constructed yet because of complicated legalities involving the Okanagan Indian Band and federal government approvals.  

The City of Kelowna, Okanagan Indian Band and District of Lake Country are working in partnership to finish the trail, but the final legal agreements are yet to be signed between the three communities, according to Mac Logan, Kelowna's general manager of infrastructure.

He said City staff have been working on final details on a nearly "daily basis" and hope to send it to Ottawa for approval — the final step before construction — within the "next few weeks."

READ MORE: No fines issued yet for using banned e-bikes on Okanagan Rail Trail

"Once it's done, we should have it constructed in one season," Logan said. "This year is a bit of a stretch because of the federal government review. Certainly next year we should absolutely have it finished."

The unfinished Okanagan Rail Trail runs along Duck Lake on Okanagan Indian Band land, which would finally connect the multi-use path from Kelowna to Lake Country, allowing travel from Kelowna to Vernon along the old CN Rail line.

The Duck Lake stretch needs approval from the federal government before construction can start. Sitting within Okanagan Indian Band land, it's regulated by Indigenous Services Canada and needs a ministerial order before shovels break ground.

Logan said there are nine legal agreements in total and the rail trail is just one piece of a larger construction project.

READ MORE: Rail Trail guaranteed to run through OKIB lands with historic new agreement

It's unclear how long the federal review of the project should take, but Logan added that the design, construction plans and funds have all been set aside to get to work once it's approved.

He said the Rail Trail is one of three pieces of the construction plans. Along with the multi-use path, the City will work on sewer and water upgrades and an eastward extension to Commonwealth Road.

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To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 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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