The community will largely be responsible for funding the $7.8 million Okanagan Rail Trail between Coldstream and Kelowna.

The community will largely be responsible for funding the $7.8 million Okanagan Rail Trail between Coldstream and Kelowna.

Rail trail plan sparks debate

It will largely be up to the community to fund the $7.8 million rail trail between Coldstream and Kelowna



It will largely be up to the community to fund the $7.86 million rail trail between Coldstream and Kelowna. And that has one politician wondering if the project will ever see the light of day.

“The trail does not get built until we, the community, raise the money,” said Brad Clements, of the Okanagan Rail Trail Initiative which is volunteering its time towards the project and presented its plan to the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee Monday.

Work will commence in phases, as funds are raised and Clements is optimistic people could be walking, running and cycling the trail within just a couple years.

“If we can create the network I’m confident we can raise the money in two years,” said Clements, as local groups are already starting to rally around the cause, but more inspiration is needed. “It takes a community to build a legacy.”

It would take 31,000 people to donate $216 each to raise the necessary funds ($6.6 million in donations are being targeted while the remaining $1.2 million will come from grants).

Meanwhile GVAC director Mike Macnabb is cautious.

“We don’t want this in never-never land,” Macnabb (BX-Silver Star) said at Monday’s meeting.

“Ultimately we want people using the trail, not waiting five or 10 years before the funds are raised.”

Macnabb is concerned that the region may not have the funds to invest, particularly when there are many other worthwhile fundraisers and organizations out there such as the Vernon Jubilee Hospital Foundation.

“That perhaps touches people more directly,” said Macnabb.

But chairperson Juliette Cunningham says it’s too early to tell and she is confident the trail will be supported.

“I think there’s huge buy-in already,” said Cunningham (Vernon). “I’m not pessimistic about it, I’m optimistic.”

The fundraising will commence once, and if, all area jurisdictions agree to the plans. The Regional District of North Okanagan and Kelowna endorsed the plans Monday, Lake Country was being presented to Tuesday evening and the Okanagan Indian Band is being presented with the plan next Tuesday.

With their approvals, Clements says fundraising can begin as early as mid-May. Locally, donations can be made out to the Community Foundation of North Okanagan and tax receipts will be issued.

The original cost for the project was $7.6 million, but the additional funds are due to banking and credit cards costs.

The 48 kilometres of trail will be basic compact gravel. Work on the physical trail won’t begin until access control, rock scaling and other work is finished. CN is on site and expected to wrap up work in October.

But in the meantime there are also concerns with people accessing the trail when they are not supposed to.

“We need to advise people it’s not a trail yet and to keep vehicles off,” said Andrew Gibbs, project manager.

Barricades will be installed but not until funding allows.

“I think we want to address that faster,” said Macnabb, noting that vehicles are already accessing the trail and there could be liability issues.

The 4.6 metre-wide trail is being built to allow for pavement in the future, which will be up to individual communities to fund. The plan is also developed with potential options for the future in mind.

“Generations from now when we are long gone there may be light rail for community,” said Gibbs.

For a video on the subject visit www.vernonmorningstar.com