Band wants plan for rail line

The Splatsin have obtained 29 acres of the abandoned Canadian Pacific rail line

Long-term public needs are the priority as a local First Nation brings its neighbours together.

The Splatsin have obtained 29 acres of the abandoned Canadian Pacific rail line and it hopes to work out a plan for the remainder of the Spallumcheen-to-Sicamous corridor with area jurisdictions.

“We are for working together collaboratively. We all have an interest and want to do what’s right,” said Chief Wayne Christian.

Some time in the new year, the Splatsin will host a meeting with Armstrong, Enderby, Spallumcheen, Sicamous, the Regional District of North Okanagan and the Columbia-Shuswap Regional District to discuss potential options for the abandoned rail line. The Shuswap Trail Alliance will also be asked to participate.

Possible options include a trail or using some of the land to expand congested portions of Highway 97A.

“It’s important that it be maintained as a transportation corridor,” said Christian.

A major concern for the municipalities and regional districts will be raising the funds needed to purchase their portions of the rail line from CP.

“Cost is the issue and we have to look at how to address that,” said Christian.

Between 2010 and 2012, RDNO went through a process looking at the corridor from Spallumcheen to Grindrod and the net salvage value at the time was $3.2 million. RDNO did not look at the cost for the rail line from Grindrod to Sicamous.

Beyond transportation, Christian says the Splatsin are interested in preserving the rail line because there are native village and burial sites along the way.

“We also have to look at the environment. When they put in the railway, it blocked (fish) spawning beds,” he said.

Of the 29 acres the Splatsin have obtained, six acres is 1.5 kilometres south of Sicamous along Mara Lake and more than 23 acres are south of Enderby.

Christian says there are no immediate plans for the two sections of land.

“There is a greater discussion for all of the land within our territory,” he said of the upcoming meeting with the other jurisdictions.

“What is our common ground and what can we do do collectively.”

The Splatsin obtained the 20 acres by taking the federal government and CP to court in 2011 for lack of consultation over abandonment of the line. An out-of-court settlement was reached.

Greg McCune, Enderby mayor, is looking forward to the meeting with the Splatsin.

“Our interests and the Splatsin’s interests align. We are thinking the same thing,” he said of public access to the rail corridor.