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Report highlights trail’s economic benefits

Paralympian Josh Dueck and Okanagan Rail Trail Initiative director Sean Cameron try out a portion of what could be the trail. - Kevin Parnell/black press
Paralympian Josh Dueck and Okanagan Rail Trail Initiative director Sean Cameron try out a portion of what could be the trail.
— image credit: Kevin Parnell/black press

The Okanagan Rail Trail Initiative has made the case for a proposed recreational corridor.

The group is hoping the old Kelowna Pacific Railway line between Coldstream and Kelowna will be turned into a trail.

“We’ve had so much public support and (all levels of) government agree that this would be a great opportunity,” said group director Brad Clements during a press conference in Oyama Tuesday.

“So many good things could happen if this is turned into a trail.”

The impact assessment released by the group points to major economic and tourism benefits to the trail, including:

* 12,500 visitors would be drawn to the trail in its first year, bringing in $3.47 million in visitor spending.

* By its fifth year in operation, the trail would bring over 26,000 new visitors and attract 600,000 total users with $6.7 million in visitor spending.

* Employment in tourism and supply businesses would generate salaries totalling $1.2 million in the first year, rising to $2.2 million by year five and averaging $2.1 million for the first 15 years of operation.

The 70-page report looked at other trails in North America and Europe that were created by using old rail lines.

“What (the report) found was an increase in the health of the overall residents because people start getting out and using the trail,” said Clements.

“We’re very excited that the report shows there are tremendous benefits to protecting the corridor in the event that it is not used as a railway, and we will know that in a week’s time. If it’s not operated as a railway we’d like to keep it as a public space.”

Josh Dueck, a Vernon gold medal Paralympic sit-skier, believes the trail would be a great way for athletes and families to have a safe place to cycle

“I do a lot of cycling in the summer months and I really believe I’m playing Russian roulette on the roads. There are not a lot of safe cycling paths right now,” he said.

As part of the abandonment process, CN Rail has until June 2 to sell the land the rail line is on to a business that would operate it as a railway. If that doesn’t happen, each level of government will have a 30-day window to potentially purchase the line.

 

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