In the North Okanagan, 2018 was a fantastic year for trails and trail users, thanks to our local and regional governments, non-government organizations, and the generosity of our community in fundraising for the rail trail.
In 2018, major trail routes were completed, or are near completion, and a new future rail trail route was acquired.
Thanks to multi-government collaboration and generous donations to the Okanagan Rail Trail, most of the trail has been built, with only 7 km awaiting construction. By next year, a continuous 50 km trail could connect Coldstream to downtown Kelowna. North of the rail trail, the Kalamalka Lake Road multi-use path now completes the connection between Coldstream and Polson Park in Vernon.
The Regional District of North Okanagan and Columbia Shuswap Regional District completed the purchase of the CP Rail Corridor between Armstrong and Sicamous early in 2018. This nearly 50 km trail, along with the Okanagan Rail Trail and Kettle Valley Rail Trail will eventually be part of a route connecting Sicamous to Osoyoos. Through a partnership including the Splatsin, regional, local and provincial governments, and non-government organizations, construction of the northern rail trail will begin in 2019 and could be complete by 2023.
To join the Okanagan Rail Trail with the Armstrong to Sicamous rail trail, a 25-km connecting route (approx.) is required. Next year, the City of Vernon will complete the final short link (along 30th St) of the 29th/30th St. multi-use path, a north-south route that bisects the City Centre and connects Polson Park with Village Green Mall. The route through Polson Park will be improved with paving and lighting. A new initiative will see the construction of a multi-use path on 48th Ave. from the Village Green Mall to Highway 97. This will connect the 29th/30th Street path to hotels and other services on Anderson way. A northern extension north of Highway 97 to Armstrong is in planning stages.
Gaps in the Grey Canal trail encircling Greater Vernon have been filled this year through acquisition and/or construction. Of the approximately 45km of Grey Canal Trail within Greater Vernon, roughly 25km are now open.
Several other trails have also been completed this year, including the Kal-Crystal Waters Trail above the Okanagan Rail Trail, and work is proceeding for trail signage and mapping.
Trails investments are well appreciated
Trail use counters on the Okanagan Rail Trail tell the story by the numbers, and happy, healthy enjoyment by all types of community members vouch for the importance of all our local trails.
The Okanagan Rail Trail is already exceeding use projections, even before it is complete. Trail counters in the North Okanagan and Lake Country alone recorded over 400,000 users between February and November. The highest use is in the northern trailhead section through Coldstream. Use is year-round. The first users, often running groups or dog walkers arrive around 5 a.m. More data is required to clearly distinguish between cyclists and walkers, but it doesn’t take data to appreciate the variety of users and the big smiles of enjoyment. Seniors, families, athletes, people with mobility challenges, friends, activity clubs, schools are just some of the users enjoying the Okanagan Rail Trail.
Our trails have many values from health and wellness, to tourism and economic development. Compared to bricks and mortar, they cost little to develop and maintain. We encourage our local and regional governments to keep up the good work on these valued amenities.
Ribbons of Green Trails Society has been working with local governments for over 25 years to advance trail development and maintenance in the Greater Vernon area. If you have skills and interests in trail planning and operations, communications, policy work, research, and advocacy, we are looking for new directors. We meet monthly, on the third Monday at 7:30 a.m. To find out more, please email email@example.com.