Rail trail fuels debate

Politicians want to expedite development of corridor from Coldstream to Kelowna

Some elected officials want to ensure development of the Okanagan Rail Trail isn’t stalled.

Director Jim Garlick wants the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee to have the ability to proceed with the section of trail in this regional district and not be held back by the other partners in the initiative — Kelowna, Lake Country and the Okanagan Indian Band.

“What kind of autonomy do we have to develop the trail on our own?” he said.

“It’s good to work with them but I’m not sure if we have to stay in lock-step with the group.”

All of the participating jurisdictions have agreed to a base standard for the trail.

“Those jurisdictions that would like to do something beyond that base level can do that beyond the money raised,” said David Sewell, Regional District of North Okanagan chief administrative officer.

As an example, Kelowna will pave a portion of its trail.

“We have the ability as separate (property) owners do do our own thing,” said Sewell.

Garlick has also suggested that there’s been a lack of information from the inter-jurisdictional administration team overseeing the rail trail project.

“We’ve never had a political discussion here. It’s all been away,” he said.

“I’d like to get the trail done sooner than later.”

Sewell insists, though, that the process has been transparent.

“We’ve had these discussions at this table. Each jurisdiction is responsible for their own works but there is a co-ordinated effort. We’re not taking a backseat with this,” he said.

GVAC is currently proceeding with some work on its 2.5-kilometre section of trail, including environmental, agricultural and archaeological protection, mitigating potential geotechnical hazards, drainage improvements and safe road crossings.

Parts of the trail will be closed as construction proceeds.

“People are using it intensely so we need a clear communications plan for when it’s closed,” said Juliette Cunningham, chairperson.