Plans to purchase the CN corridor between Coldstream and Kelowna have hit a roadblock with some Lake Country voters.

Plans to purchase the CN corridor between Coldstream and Kelowna have hit a roadblock with some Lake Country voters.

Rail trail hits a roadblock

Officials are scrambling to keep a high-profile land purchase on the rails

Officials are scrambling to keep a high-profile land purchase on the rails.

A multi-jurisdictional effort to acquire the 47.5-kilometre  Canadian National rail corridor hit a setback Monday when 960 names were received by the District of Lake Country opposing borrowing $2.6 million for its section of track.

“I’m disappointed,” said Mayor James Baker.

The district had sought public assent to borrow the funds through an alternate approval process. Under legislation, if 10 per cent of voters (931) sign a petition in opposition, borrowing is blocked.

Lake Country council met Tuesday to discuss the matter.

“We’ll see what kind of options we want to pursue,” said Baker.

“I will ask council to seek an extension (of the purchase timeline) from CN so we can put forward a referendum.”

The deadline for the agreement to be concluded is April 1.

The outcome of the council meeting occurred after press deadline, but the earliest a referendum could be held in Lake Country is late spring.

“The deal is still worth pursuing,” said Baker, adding that there was a lot of misinformation provided by the organizers of the anti-rail campaign.

“Far greater than 50 per cent (of residents) is in favour.”

Besides Lake Country, the other jurisdictions involved in the proposed purchase for $22 million are Kelowna and the Regional District of North Okanagan.

RDNO’s $1.9 million would come from reserves.

“There is pretty broad community support to keep the corridor in public hands,” said Bob Fleming, an RDNO director.

However, Fleming admits the process is currently on hold.

“The next step is to see what Lake Country does. Even if they hold a referendum, their share is in doubt.”

The Okanagan Rail Trail Initiative has been pushing for the abandoned rail line to be purchased and turned into a recreational corridor.

“A referendum would be the best way to go to allow for an informed community discussion,” said Brad Clements, Okanagan Rail Trail Initiative spokesperson.

The results of the alternate approval process are being welcomed by Lake Country resident Roger Bailey, who had been vocal in his opposition to borrowing funds.

“I guess that’s a message to council that when they want to do something they have to be a little more communicative,” said Bailey. “I went to the open houses with respect to the process and that was the first time the public was invited to be a part of it and it wasn’t for any input, it was just to tell us what they were doing. I didn’t like that. They have grandiose plans for the future that never seem to take into account the locals.”

— with files from the Lake Country Calendar