Full Okanagan rail trail opening faces another delay after Agricultural Land Commission decision | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Full Okanagan rail trail opening faces another delay after Agricultural Land Commission decision

A recent decision by the Agricultural Land Commission has delayed the full opening of the Okanagan Rail Trail.
Image Credit: Contributed/ Okanagan Rail Trail
September 24, 2018 - 9:49 AM

OKANAGAN - Even as the partial opening of the Okanagan Rail Trail is being celebrated this week, the complete opening of the trail looks like it's going to take even longer.

On Friday, Sept. 21, the Agricultural Land Commission released its decision on a multiple-parcel application seeking to change the use of the land under the rail trail from a railway bed to a multi-use trail.

A seven-kilometre portion of the 49-kilometre CN Rail corridor between Beaver Lake Road and UBC Okanagan that includes Okanagan Indian Band land is still closed and undeveloped.

While the change was approved for most of the 26 properties involved in the application, the stretch beside the Eldorado Ranch in Kelowna involving four parcels was not.

In the written decision, Okanagan panel chair Gerald Zimmerman noted that consultations with the owners and operators of the ranch showed they crossed the rail corridor multiple times a day with machinery.

With thousands of people expected to use the trail, they are concerned about liability, theft, trespassing plus the need to maintain fencing while also running waterlines across the trail.

While Zimmerman noted staff from the City of Kelowna had been working with the ranch, it was not satisfied with how it would mitigate conflicts on the trail.

While the panel approved the change under the other land parcels, they are still subject to a list of conditions that must be met, including ongoing maintenance, easements for agricultural use and an array of measures advising users of the agriculture going on around them.

The decision encourages the applicant to continue to work with the affected property owners and notes the rail trail development group had upped its Agricultural Land Reserve response budget from $75,000 to $200,000 in anticipation of the decision.

Rail trail development group representative Andrew Gibbs said the decision was a "bit of a surprise" and is going to require they look for a temporary alternative route, including possibly directing rail trail users back out onto Highway 97 for a portion of the trail.

"It's certainly not ideal. We are going to have start poking around and looking at other possibilities," Gibbs said. "We thought we had satisfied their concerns."

This is not the only hindrance to a full opening. The Okanagan Indian Band is still awaiting transfer of the portion of the former rail corridor that crosses its Duck Lake reserve from CN Rail.

A timeline for the transfer is not clear but once it has been made, band members must also vote on its use as part of the rail trail.

In the meantime, the partner communities are celebrating the opening of the remaining 42 kilometres of trail at a public ceremony in Oyama, Lake Country on Thursday, Sept. 27.

To contact a reporter for this story, email John McDonald 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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