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Rail Trail along Vaseux Lake a distinct possibility

A section of the KVR Trail along Vaseux Lake.
Image Credit: Wikimedia commons
September 14, 2021 - 8:45 AM

After years of discussion and reluctance of senior government to allow the old Kettle Valley Rail Line on the west side of Vaseux Lake to be opened to the public, there is now a light at the end of that tunnel.

Janice Liebe, President of the Trail of the Okanagans Society, now has an agreement with provincial and regional governments to draft a parks plan for the 6.5 km stretch of the rail line.

“This is a very exciting development and one that has been a long time in the making,” she said in a news release. “It has taken considerable effort on the part of government and volunteer groups over the last decade to get to this point.”

The west side of Vaseux Lake is considered an environmentally sensitive area that must be protected.

The east side, which is the only alternative for a pathway past the lake, is restricted to a cliff face with Highway 97 running between it and the lake.

Recreation Sites and Trails B.C. commissioned an environmental review in 2019 that determined that the rail bed on the west side of the lake can actually be opened up “as long as the habitat on either side of the trail is protected with mitigation efforts identified in the report,” the news release said.

Liebe met with Recreation Sites and Trails B.C., the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen, Boundary-Similkameen MLA Roly Russell and Osoyoos Councillor Myers Bennett earlier this week as part of the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention.

“The attendees committed to work together to determine a path forward to prepare a park plan that will detail the construction work, mitigation measures and consultation required with follow up meetings set for later this fall,” the release states.

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

The Vaseux Lake stretch is essential to creating a 270 km rail trail to connect Sicamous to Osoyoos.

That will include the 50 km Okanagan Rail Trail that is almost complete between Kelowna and Coldstream. Another 50 km abandoned rail line is secured from Sicamous to Armstrong and work is underway to open up some sections of that trail to the public this year.

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

Between Kelowna and Osoyoos there are numerous gaps in the trail, not the least of which are along Drought Hill between Peachland and West Kelowna and the lack of an off-highway connection between Peachland and Summerland where no rail line ever ran.

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

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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