The developers of the proposed Okanagan Gondola project addressed the questions and concerns of nearby Predator Ridge residents at a town hall on Friday, April 1.
Rav Soomal and Paul Deutsch of Ridge North America — the developers behind the Golden Skybridge — met with the community in a Predator Ridge conference room to present their plans for the project, which would erect a gondola 1,600 feet above Kalamalka Lake from a site near Bailey Road, across from the Okanagan Rail Trail.
The multi-million dollar project would also feature zip lines, restaurants, retail outlets, an outdoor light show area, wedding and event venues, tree forts, a playground, plaza, amphitheatre, trails and more.
“It’s really fun to be a part of a project that so many people are excited about,” Soomal said.
The biggest concern among local residents was the increase in traffic the commercial business would draw — particularly at the intersection of Bailey Road and Highway 97, which residents have long considered a dangerous left-hand turn.
“The Ministry of Transportation currently doesn’t have any concern about the intersection,” Deutsch informed the crowd.
That news resulted in an erruption of laughter. Brad Pelletier, senior vice president of Predator Ridge, weighed in to say that he’s been pushing the ministry to address the intersection for 11 years.
“I’ve been on them to eliminate that northbound left-hand turn coming down Bailey. I’m sure no one in this room makes that turn,” he said. “They should eliminate it, they should have eliminated it a long time ago.”
A resident who brought up the intersection during the question period suggested the project could in fact put pressure on the ministry to improve the intersection, resolving an issue residents have been concerned with for years.
Others shared concerns about noise and unsightly views, with one person asking how close the summit station will be to the nearest residences. Deutsch said the distance would be about 2,500 to 3,000 feet, and for anyone who was unconvinced about the project’s proximity, he offered to shuttle residents up to the site to see for themselves.
Asked how long the project will take to complete, Deutsch said initial construction of the gondola and buildings will take 18 to 24 months, with other elements like trail connections and interpretive panels to be added beyond that timeline.
Deutsch said the gondola would be a seasonal business to start, operating about 135 days a year and welcoming an estimated 100,000 to 120,000 visitors annually. Forecasting the level of job creation, he added that the Golden Skybridge has comparable visitor levels and employs 40 to 50 staff members.
In addition to the question-answer session, attendees were invited to fill out and submit feedback cards.
Ridge North America has applied to amend the official community plan of the Regional District of North Okanagan (RDNO) to make way for the project. The RDNO has supported the project thus far but have attached a number of conditions.
One of those conditions was to hold a public information meeting; check that off the list. They’ll also need to engage with local governments, First Nations and the Ministry of Transportation, and those talks are well underway. Environmental, hydrogeological and geotechnical studies are also required.
“We have a handful of engineering reports that are either complete or underway,” Soomal said.