iN PHOTOS: World class Interior rail trail should soon start to blossom | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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iN PHOTOS: World class Interior rail trail should soon start to blossom

This section of rail trail is between Coldstream and Kekuli Bay.
Image Credit: Submitted/Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association
June 20, 2021 - 9:00 AM

The launch of an updated B.C. Rail Trail website is just one more piece that’s helping to create a cycling network that will attract tourists from all over the world.

The Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association announced the upgrade earlier this week.

The website has an interactive map and descriptions of more than two dozen trail sections from the East Kootenays to Hope with the Kettle Valley Rail line from Midway to Penticton as one of the longest continuous stretches of actual rail tail.

It has been a long, slow process to develop the network of rail trails in B.C.'s Interior and many crucial links still need to be completed.

“You have to do lot of groundwork before you see the results so, for the last five years, we’ve been digging under the surface,” Mike Overend, director of sustainability with the tourist association, said. “Hopefully the flower starts to grow in the next couple of years.”

The association’s trail focus, right now, is on the Midway to Penticton section of the Kettle Valley Railway, which is in pretty good shape for cycling or hiking but does have sections that are shared with motorized traffic.

This is along the Kettle Valley Railway trail between Chute Lake and Naramata.
This is along the Kettle Valley Railway trail between Chute Lake and Naramata.
Image Credit: Submitted/Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association

Government grants are helping with trail and signage work this year.

That rail line officially ends in Midway but there are connections along the former Columbia and Western rail line extending east to Castlegar, although there are rough sections between Greenwood and Grand Forks and much of the route from Christina Lake to Castlegar is now also a logging road.

This trail section is in Midway, the start of the Kettle Valley rail line.
This trail section is in Midway, the start of the Kettle Valley rail line.
Image Credit: Submitted/Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association

In order to get through the other way to Hope, there is some travel required along Highway 97 between Penticton and Summerland and along the Coquihalla Highway.

The B.C. Rail Trail map does not offer much direction on that part of the route.

The Okanagan Rail Trail is paved within the City of Kelowna.
The Okanagan Rail Trail is paved within the City of Kelowna.
Image Credit: Submitted/Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association

The other major corridor is north-south through the Okanagan Valley from Sicamous to Osoyoos. Again, many sections on that route are yet to be completed.

The Shuswap North Okanagan Rail Trail society is currently fundraising and hopes to get a couple of pilot sections built by the end of the year. That's hoped to serve as a catalyst to raise funds to complete the 50 km trail and connect it to the Okanagan Rail Trail from Coldstream to Kelowna.

READ MORE: Shuswap North Okanagan Rail Trail 'test section' in Enderby get $250K grant

That’s still missing a vital link between Lake Country and Kelowna International Airport while waiting for the federal government to turn over land to the Okanagan Indian Band along Duck Lake.

This is part of the southern part of the KVR between Oliver and Osoyoos.
This is part of the southern part of the KVR between Oliver and Osoyoos.
Image Credit: Submitted/Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association

Trail of the Okanagans is working on numerous missing links between West Kelowna and Osoyoos. Major obstacles exist along Drought Hill from Peachland to West Kelowna and at Vaseux Lake where federal environment officials don't want people to travel along the old rail line.

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

Right now, the various groups are working independently but communicate with each other in an effort to achieve a common goal of having rail trails that will attract cyclist from all over the world.

There have been discussions in the past about a joint effort but, Overend said, not everyone was ready to make that move at that time and some personnel have since left.

“I think that fundraising on an individual level, at this point, is a better strategy,” Overend said. “The North Okanagan needs to do their own fundraising. Once they get going, that will be a good point for us to come back together and maybe look at a bigger push.”

The problem with a region-wide fundraising approach is that the population is heaviest in the Central Okanagan and Vernon areas. Many of those people donated to the Okanagan Rail Trail and may be reluctant to contribute more to routes not in their own backyards, he said.

Along the route between Princeton and Tulameen.
Along the route between Princeton and Tulameen.
Image Credit: Submitted/Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association

Overend expects it will take two to three years and federal funding to get the northern trail built but that will provide impetus to get the southern link completed.

Right now, there are about 650 km of identified trails but they are yet to all be connected.

There are no plans, at this time, to connect any of these rail trails to Kamloops as the rail line from Armstrong to Kamloops is still actively used.

The website includes details about each of the sections and provides difficulty ratings.

See the website at bcrailtrails.com here.


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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