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Politicians endorse rail trail plans

Local politicians are supportive of efforts to preserve a rail corridor for public use.

Attempts to maintain freight service between Coldstream and Kelowna have failed and now the federal government has a 30-day window to determine if it will purchase the route from Canadian National.

“It would be unwise for the federal government to do this on its own because it would set a precedent but we have had discussions with municipalities about options for partnering,” said Colin Mayes, Okanagan-Shuswap MP.

“The consensus among the provincial government, the MPs from the Okanagan and municipalities is there is a desire to see the corridor preserved.”

Mayes is not sure if a proposal to purchase the track can occur before the 30-day deadline ends for Ottawa.

“There is work being done to get that extended so we can get everyone together and consider alternatives,” he said.

If the federal government does not acquire the corridor after 30 days, the provincial government then has a similar time period to show interest, which could then be followed by a 30-day period for local governments.

“We’ve had some preliminary discussions at all levels — First Nations, federal, provincial and municipal,” said Eric Foster, Vernon-Monashee MLA.

“Everyone is in favour of coming up with a plan.”

However, Foster admits the final deciding factor may be cost.

“It will depend on what kind of deal the group can work out with CN,” he said.

If the levels of government do not acquire the land, CN could sell the property off to private interests, such as developers.

The Okanagan Rail Trail Initiative believes a public corridor could attract 600,000 users and generate $6.7 million in spending by tourists by the fifth year.

“We really couldn’t ask for a better corridor for a community pathway. It would be a beautiful, safe way for commuters, tourists and residents to enjoy some of the valley’s most spectacular scenery,” said Brad Clements, OTR director.

“We can make this happen but we need public support sent through the website at www.okanaganrailtrail.ca to let governments know this is important to us.”

 

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