Portion of Okanagan Rail Trail set to open in fall

Several unconnected portions of the Okanagan Rail Trail will be open by fall.

Portions of the old CN line will be a rail trail by fall.

Portions of the old CN line will be a rail trail by fall.

Several unconnected portions of the Okanagan Rail Trail will be open by fall.

Andrew Gibbs, a parks planner with the City of Kelowna, said the decision to open the multi-use pathway in chunks is a deviation from the original plan to keep it closed until completed, but it’s more likely to spur enthusiasm among the general public who is actually funding the endeavour.

“We’ve been working with the Okanagan Rail Trail Initiative and donors are looking at having their donations at work sooner than later,” Gibbs said.

That means in each jurisdiction — Kelowna, Lake Country and Vernon — will see a portion of trail, eight to nine kilometres under construction by spring.

The initial entry points to the trail have yet to be established, and Gibbs said that will likely be dictated by which areas have the most modest permitting requirements.

Once construction is underway, he said, it will also be a good way to get a grip on what the project will entail .

“We will be able to test and refine our construction method and costs,” said Gibbs, adding that the city has applied on grants to help get the work going.

The trail will be made of gravel, but Gibbs said that as time goes on municipalities can decide if they want to tweak that project.

Local governments have long since said they won’t be using taxpayer funds to complete the trail, which has an estimated cost of $8 million, as they kicked in the $22 million to buy the abandoned rail corridor from CN.

Members of the Okanagan Rail Trail Initiative say they have raised 34 per cent of their target.

More than 3,300 individuals and 30 businesses have so far donated to the campaign. Once fully built, the trail will span the shoreline of Kalamalka, Wood and Duck lakes.