Overnight stop on the Okanagan Rail Trail tour? It could soon happen | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Overnight stop on the Okanagan Rail Trail tour? It could soon happen

Image Credit: From Tourism Kelowna web page.
January 21, 2020 - 7:30 AM

The Okanagan Rail Trail may already have hundreds of thousands of annual users but anyone wanting to a place to sleep has to extend their journey, in most cases, far beyond that trail.

While the trail ends near downtown Kelowna with its many eateries and hotels, that’s not the case for most of its 50 km route.

A rezoning application going to Lake Country council next Tuesday opens the door to changing that.

“When we purchased the Rail Trail in 2015 we said, if there is excess land available to dispose of, we’ll look at that,” Matt Vader, spokesperson for Lake Country, told iNFOnews.ca. “We’re required to keep 20 metres. This is in an excess area.”

The land in question is 1.5 acres jointly owned by Lake Country and Kelowna that straddles the Rail Trail on the east side of Wood Lake.

The plan is to rezone it to an agricultural tourist accommodation zone that allows “seasonal campsites, seasonal cabins or short term use of bedrooms including bed and breakfast bedrooms.”

Right now it’s mostly a housekeeping exercise. The land consists of two long narrow strips that aren’t wide enough to build much on. There are no current plans to develop it.

But, by giving it the new zoning, it makes it easier for someone to buy it, join it with another parcel of land – such as the agricultural land to the east - or to “hook” it to another parcel so it can be developed. The surrounding lands have the same zoning.

Or it could be left in public ownership and be developed in some fashion for trail users, such as opening access to the lakeshore or creating a resting space.

Vader, who oversees the Rail Trail for local governments, is looking at other excess lands along the trail. The potential for travel amenities are limited because, for example, much of the route along Kalamalka Lake is squeezed between the lake and cliffs.

As part of what is destined to become a 250-km pathway from Sicamous to the U.S. border and beyond, Vader hopes there will be more businesses catering to trail users by either opening next to the trail or by building other pathways that connect to the “spine.”

The Okanagan Rail Trail web page has also been revamped to include directions to eateries, wineries and breweries along the route.

Vader is also looking at ways to get a more precise count of how many people are using the trail each year.

There are a number of counters along the way but single users can trigger multiple counts on those counters. For example, one person cycling from downtown Kelowna to the airport and back would trigger 10 tallies.

In 2019, the various counters had 1.3 million tallies. Based on standards set on other trails, Vader used a factor of three to estimate that equalled about 500,000 users. Friends of the Okanagan Rail Trail are gathering data directly from users to try to refine that calculation.

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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