The Columbia Shuswap Regional District board is optimistic revised agreements with dock owners along Mara Lake will allow work on the Shuswap North Okanagan Rail Trail to proceed.
At its Feb. 16 meeting, the board was required to vote on several items relating to the rail trail project, which spans the 50-kilometre stretch of the former railway line between Sicamous and Armstrong. The Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) and the Regional District of the North Okanagan (RDNO) purchased this rail corridor in 2018.
The first of the items involved a series of recommended amendments to the framework agreement for upland consent/crossing agreements (permits) for the dock owners/tenure holders adjacent to the rail trail along Sicamous Narrows and Mara Lake. Among the recommended changes: that consent agreements to allow docks to be located adjacent to the rail trail, and access to those docks, be for a 10-year term.
Another recommendation: that “staff be directed to prepare the appropriate documents and send them to the appropriate property owners as the finalized terms and conditions of an offer to provide upland property owner consent to facilitate a provincial tenure grant for permission to build a dock.”
CSRD chief administrative officer John MacLean said amendments address the majority of issues raised by dock owners in the Sicamous Narrows area, and allow the regional district to move forward with the rail trail’s development.
Board chair Kevin Flynn explained when MacLean was hired in September, the rail trail was made MacLean’s number-one objective.
“Since Mr. Maclean has been here, we’ve met with District of Sicamous a couple of times in camera because of the issues within their boundaries,” said Flynn. “The CAO has met with (RDNO) numerous times and the (rail trail) governance advisory committee, and I have to say this is a really exciting time to have on the floor what we’re talking about and where we can finally, hopefully, turn the page and start building the trail.”
Sicamous Mayor Colleen Anderson asked what happens at the end of the 10-year term. MacLean replied the CSRD would reach out to the owners and if there’s no change in the terms of conditions, and the dock owners still accept the agreement, “we’ll initiate a process to renew.” MacLean said the intention is to keep the contracts with all the dock owners consistent, with a consistent termination date.
“I’m really excited about this moving forward and… I know it’s not going to please all the people, but you know what, it’s going to please the majority, so we can finally move forward and get the rail trail done,” said Anderson.
Another amendment that spurred discussion had to do with maintenance costs for the rail trail, that they be apportioned to the owners “at a ratio relative to the linear ownership of the Rail Trail” – 46 per cent each for the CSRD and the RDNO, and eight per cent for Splatsin.
“From the start, this project has been very unique and I think one of a kind, possibly in Canada,” said Flynn, noting initially maintenance costs were to be split 50-50 between the RDNO and the CSRD.
“Splatsin offered eight per cent because they believed in this project so much. All along its been three owners sharing in a manner recommended… and Splatsin has come to the table with eight per cent,” said Flynn. “I do think it’s important to note that what’s in your area, or kilometres, isn’t how it should be apportioned; I think this is the right way to go.”
Flynn added there’s no question costs within the CSRD are significant.
“I took my boat down the rail trail last summer and to see the erosion along Mara Lake, you can see where the maintenance costs are going to be.”
The board voted in support of all the rail trail agenda items, which can be found in the Feb. 16 meeting agenda at csrd.bc.ca.
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