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Local government to make an offer on rail corridor

CN has already begun ripping out rail ties in areas of Kelowna, such as this location on Hardy Street, south of Dilworth Mountain Park.
August 22, 2014 - 4:16 PM

OKANAGAN - A group of Okanagan municipalities plan to make CN an offer this fall for an almost 50 kilometre long rail corridor between Vernon and Kelowna.

Doug Gilchrist, City of Kelowna real estate and community planning director says a jurisdictional acquisition team made up of Kelowna, Lake Country, Coldstream, the North Okanagan Regional District and the Central Okanagan Regional District is preparing to have the offer in by Oct. 5.

“Everyone is really excited about it,” Gilchrist says. “Every jurisdiction sees great potential for the corridor and importance of keeping the community connected.”

CN has already started decommissioning the old Kelowna Pacific Railway line, which went bankrupt last summer.

Gilchrist says the asking price for the land is $50 million but won’t comment on what the acquisition team is willing to pay. Based on Canadian Transportation Agency deals in the past, he says through negotiations, what’s asked for and what’s paid can vary greatly.

Funding sources and partnerships with provincial and federal governments are still be explored, he says.

Meanwhile, the Okanagan Indian Band has asked the government of Canada to return a portion of the land to the reserve.

“A significant portion of the rail line falls within the OKIB’s Commonage Reserve set up by the Joint Reserve Commission of 1877. The Commonage Reserve was never lawfully surrendered or otherwise lawfully taken,” chief Byron Louis said in a release earlier this summer.

Gilchrist says both parties are working toward the same goal of preserving the land for the public.

“Although the lands will revert to them we believe they’ll be more than happy to work with us to keep the corridor open,” Gilchrist says.

Chief Louis could not be reached for comment by publishing time, but told Global Okanagan he was surprised to hear of the bid through the media.

As the Oct. 5 deadline approaches, Gilchrist is confident the acquisition team will have an offer ready.

“We’ve been working on this a number of months as a team, we’ve done our homework, we know the importance of it, there’s enough positive momentum from mayors and councils, I’m confident we can get there. Protecting the corridor for a multitude of uses is critical and we’ll do everything we can to make it happen,” he says.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at chelston@infotelnews.ca or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email mjones@infotelnews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

News from © iNFOnews, 2014

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