Filling the gaps: Efforts ramping up to complete cycling trail from Sicamous to Osoyoos | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Filling the gaps: Efforts ramping up to complete cycling trail from Sicamous to Osoyoos

One of the gaps that the Trail of the Okanagans Society is trying to fill is the one between Summerland and Peachland.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK / Trail of the Okanagans

Westbank First Nation is stepping up to partially fill one of dozens of gaps in the trail network from Osoyoos to Sicamous.

At the same time, Shuswap North Okanagan Rail Trail has launched a fundraising drive in the hopes of opening some of that trail next year and the Trail of the Okanagans Society is gearing up its efforts to close 30 gaps in its section of the trail with a proposed cost-benefit analysis.

“We’re ramping up our organization,” Janice Liebe, president of the Trail of the Okanagans Society told “We now have representatives from each community, other than Penticton, from West Kelowna down to Osoyoos. We are looking to have a cost benefit analysis done for a continuously connected trail in the South Okanagan from the Bennett bridge down to the border but that would also connect into the Okanagan Rail Trail.”

The society just learned that Westbank First Nation is going to build an “all ages, all abilities multi-use” path from the Bennett bridge south through their lands along Campbell Road next year.

“Here is a lovely present in time for Christmas courtesy of the West Bank First Nations,” Liebe wrote on the society’s Facebook page.

This shows the trail route to be built by Westbank First Nations next year.
This shows the trail route to be built by Westbank First Nations next year.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Westbank First Nation

The three metre wide trail, complete with lighting, will run 800 metres along the south side of Campbell Road to the southern end of their lands, according to an email from Westbank First Nation. Construction is expected to start in the spring of 2021, 

That will leave about 1.5 km along Campbell Road to Kalamoir Park that the City of West Kelowna will have to build.

That’s currently in the plans but well down the priority list, Brent Magnan, the City’s planning manager said. But that could change.

“When we have additional development that’s starting to create the building blocks for these types of connections, that helps guide how we prioritize things in the future,” Magnan said. “It’s a good thing. It’s great.”

He knew that such a path was going to happen some day as Westbank First Nations developed its lands. He hadn’t heard that it was definitely going ahead next year.

Westbank First Nation will be doing preliminary design work in 2021, as well, on a similar trail through their lands along Boucherie Road.

“WFN will be the first jurisdiction south of the Bennett Bridge to complete the Trail of the Okanagans within their boundaries,” Liebe wrote. “Happy Holiday's everyone!”

That trail will start where West Kelowna’s Boucherie Wine Trail ends, which leaves a gap between Kalamoir Park and Boucherie Road.

Ideally, Magnan said, there will be a lower level connection through Quails Gate winery lands to Green Bay.

There are talks going on between Trail of the Okanagans members and the winery owners, as there is with the Bylands family that owns land at the foot of Goats Peak that blocks public access to the new Goats Peak Regional Park, Liebe said.

As she understands it, the Bylands family is willing to allow public access once the land is redeveloped but they’re not in any hurry to do that.

There is also discussions happening about connecting Beach Avenue in Peachland to the south side of Goats Peak, Liebe said.

Key to getting the 30 gaps in the Trail of the Okanagan filled is the cost-benefit study that shows what the South and Central Okanagan is missing out on without such a trail.

Cost estimates for the study range from $40,000 to $120,000.

“I’m hoping to find something in the medium range,” Liebe said. “We want to have a quality assessment, for sure. We don’t want it to take a really long time. We want to complete it next year. We’re starting to look at grant funding that might be able to pay for that and other sources.”

The group has just starting to get this project going this month, she said.

They have also worked with counterparts in Washington State to look at ways to connect the Trail of the Okanagans to those south of the border.

READ MORE: Trail of the Okanagans wants to go international

To the north, there’s still a piece of the Okanagan Rail Trail missing between Kelowna and Lake Country as the Okanagan Indian Band waits for the land to be transferred from the federal government.

READ MORE: One last piece of Okanagan Rail Trail 'nearing its final stage

One of Salmon Arm artist Otto Pfannschmidt cards.
One of Salmon Arm artist Otto Pfannschmidt cards.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK / Shuswap North Okanagan Rail Trail

Further north, the Shuswap North Okanagan Rail Trail group has started with a “soft launch” of its fundraising drive to complete their rail trail from Sicamous to Armstrong. The land is already owned by local governments, led by the Splatsin First Nation.

Like the Okanagan Rail Trail it is a 50 km long stretch of abandoned rail line. It could cost as much as $23 million to fully develop that trail.

READ MORE: Sicamous to Armstrong rail-trail estimated to cost $10M more than predicted

The cost of resurfacing the trail, however, is pegged the same as the Okanagan Rail Trail at $160 per metre or about $8 million, Phil McIntyre-Paul, project manager for Shuswap North Okanagan Rail Trail said.

Trail surfacing will be the focus of the public fundraising campaign to be fully launched next year.

The hope, in part, is to use that money as leverage to get senior government grants to do other essential work, such as $2.5 million for a Highway 97 overpass and $5.5 million for about 3.5 km of erosion control work spread over various sections of the trail.

More funds will be needed in future years for things like parking lots and other amenities.

“We would really like to start some development of some section or sections of the trail in 2021, with the hope that there’s something people can start to sample by the end of the year,” McIntyre-Paul said. “There’s no guarantees on that. If we got something started it could be the following spring before we can officially open something."

People may be hesitant to donate to such a massive project, wondering if it will ever get built, but once they can access some parts of it, that may get them to contribute, he said.

Fundraising efforts have started by selling a winter greeting card collection by Salmon Arm artist Otto Pfannschmidt, showing the trail in winter.

It’s being sold in Askew’s Foods stores in Salmon Arm, Sicamous and Armstrong as well as at some Enderby businesses. Askew’s is the trail’s first community sponsor. It will match, dollar for dollar, each sale up to $20,000

Donations can also be made on the Shuswap North Okanagan Rail Trail web page here.

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

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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