Work on first stage of Sicamous to Armstrong rail trail to start this year | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Work on first stage of Sicamous to Armstrong rail trail to start this year

A section of the proposed Shuswap-North Okanagan Rail Trail will run along the shore of Mara Lake.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK/Shuswap Trails

Construction of a two-kilometre section of a proposed rail trail linking Sicamous to Armstrong could start this summer with plans afoot to create a short piece of the trail in Enderby.

The Shuswap-North Okanagan Rail Trail, which would connect Sicamous to Armstrong via a disused rail line, is planning on creating a "test section" of the trail which would run through Enderby and the Splatsin First Nation.

The Shuswap Trail Alliance executive director Phil McIntyre-Paul said if all goes to plan the small section of the trail could be completed by the fall.

"Everyone knows from the Okanagan Rail Trail once there's actual work starting to happen people's enthusiasm to support this goes up substantially," McIntyre-Paul said.

The proposed trail would run along the disused rail line north from Back Enderby Road through Enderby and then parallel with Brickyard Road for a total distance of roughly two kilometres.

While the two kilometres long trail is a mere fraction of the proposed 50 kilometres Sicamous to Armstrong project, it would be the first completed section of the trail.

The Shuswap Trail Alliance is currently working as the project manager for the project which is an initiative between the Splatsin Nation, the Regional District of North Okanagan and the Columbia Shuswap Regional District, which now own the disused rail line.

McIntyre-Paul said the "test section" still needs final approval and then grant money can be applied for, but he was hopeful the project would be completed by the fall.

He said the section through Enderby was chosen because it was relatively simple to resurface the old rail line and the section didn't present any major complications. Including parking, it's expected to cost $600,000.

While construction has yet to start on any section of the trail, McIntyre-Paul said significant behind the scenes progress has been made, which started with the First Nation and regional districts purchasing the disused rail line. Extensive technical planning work and a full development plan have now been completed.

"At this point of time, it all hinges on capital funding," he said. "The sooner that happens the faster it goes, the slower it happens the slower it goes."

READ MORE: Filling the gaps: Efforts ramping up to complete cycling trail from Sicamous to Osoyoos

From Sicamous, the proposed Shuswap North Okanagan Rail Trail will follow the disused rail line travelling south along the west shore of Mara Lake and the Shuswap River to Enderby. Then 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.

The Shuswap-North Okanagan Rail Trail launched its community fundraising campaign in December and is pushing to raise $8-million. Roughly it's thought to cost $160 per metre to complete the trail, the same as the Okanagan Rail Trail.

The initial trail was estimated to cost roughly $13 million, but subsequent engineering studies found significant erosion of the shoreline at Mara Lake and parts of the Shuswap River. Another hurdle is that the trail runs across Highway 97A, which will require a bridge to be built. The bridge is thought to cost $2.5 million and the erosion works $5.5 million.

The additional costs were identified last summer and bump the estimated total cost to $22.9-million.

McIntyre-Paul said this estimate is high does as it does include a contingency as the longer the erosion work is left the more damage will be done and the higher the cost.

While the numbers are high, McIntyre-Paul points to the success of the Okanagan Rail Trail, which continues to be hugely popular and raised large amounts of funds from the community. He also points out the popularity of trails, especially since the pandemic and said both province and federal governments favour such projects.

How long it will take to complete the entire trail is hard to say. McIntyre-Paul said if someone wrote them a cheque for the full amount, it could be completed by the end of 2022. More realistically he expects the trial to completed in stages depending on fundraising and grants, but hopes it will be complete in three to five years.

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

For more information about the trail go here.

A map of the proposed route.
A map of the proposed route.
Image Credit: Shuswap North Okanagan rail trail

— This story was updated 10:50 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021 to clarify the Shuswap-North Okanagan Rail Trail community fundraising campaign's goal is to raise $8-million.

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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