Sicamous to Armstrong rail-trail estimated to cost $10M more than predicted | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Sicamous to Armstrong rail-trail estimated to cost $10M more than predicted

Mara Lake.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK: Shuswap Trails
August 21, 2020 - 6:30 AM

A proposed rail trail linking Sicamous to Armstrong is estimated to cost $10 million more than originally thought.

The Shuswap-North Okanagan Rail Trail, which would connect Sicamous to Armstrong via a disused rail line, is estimated to cost $22.9 million, a significant increase in the original cost estimate of $13 million.

The Shuswap Trail Alliance executive director Phil McIntyre-Paul said the extra costs came largely from shoreline erosion work, along with building a bridge over Highway 97A near Enderby.

A report to the North Okanagan Shuswap Rail Trail Advisory Committee states the shoreline protection work would cost $5.5 million and the highway bridge $2.5 million. The report also lists a "contingency and engineering allowance of $6.5 million" and describes the extra costs as a "significant funding hurdle."

McIntyre-Paul said he was still optimistic about the rail trail project and the provincial and federal governments had a strong appetite for such projects.

The new $22.9 million cost estimate follows 12 months of work on a technical development report which is now due to be presented to stakeholders Aug. 21.

The proposed rail trail is an initiative between the Splatsin Nation, the Regional District of North Okanagan and the Columbia Shuswap Regional District – the three owners of the disused rail line. The Shuswap Trail Alliance is currently acting as project manager for the project which also involves numerous municipalities in the area.

Much like the hugely popular Okanagan Rail Trail, the Shuswap-North Okanagan Rail Trail would follow a disused rail line travelling south along the west shore of Mara Lake and the Shuswap River to Enderby. From there it would head south crossing Highway 97A, near Stepney Road south of the Log Barn, and continue into Armstrong a journey of roughly 50 kilometres.

"Mara (lake) is an exceptional piece of lakeside trail through a rural area... the section between the south end of Mara Lake all the way through to Armstrong goes through a remarkable part of the North Okanagan Valley... we have Fortune Creek meandering back and forth," McIntyre-Paul said. "It's equally beautiful."

The project initially launched in 2019 and was due to launch its official fundraising campaign in the spring, until the pandemic put it on hold.

McIntyre-Paul was optimistic the project may be completed within three to five years, but the extra costs mean he now won't put a date on the project.

"I am telling folks, keep your bike oiled and certainly keep your hiking boots handy," he said. "Let's see what we can pull off."

The project manager said while the estimated costs are higher than originally thought, the preliminary concept design and technical report give the stakeholders a solid platform to work from in applying for capital funds. McIntyre-Paul said the economic and health benefits of having such trails was well documented and the province favoured these types of projects.

The trail is also part of a larger strategic vision, which aims to eventually link Sicamous to Osoyoos by connecting existing trails.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 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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