Buying the defunct Armstrong to Sicamous rail corridor, as the Regional District of North Okanagan would like to do, is no problem for Spallumcheen councillor Christine Fraser.
In fact, the veteran councillor calls the proposed purchase a “once in a lifetime opportunity.”
What bothers Fraser is the process to date and how much the township will be on the hook for maintenance and development of the trail if the purchase goes through.
“A bylaw should have been separate for the development and maintenance of the railroad and introduced after we consulted with our residents, and we know what we’re signing up for,” said Fraser. “It would have been nice to have some questions answered.”
RDNO directors unanimously passed, in April, a motion to undertake an alternative approval process of the entire proposed service area. That includes Spallumcheen, the Cities of Armstrong and Enderby, Village of Lumby, and Electoral Areas D and F. The proposal calls to adopt a loan authorization bylaw of up to $2.3 million to buy the abandoned Canadian Pacific Rail corridor between Armstrong and Sicamous to develop a network of regional trails.
The alternative approval process is underway, meaning if 10 per cent, or 1,658, of eligible voters out of 16,588 vote against borrowing the money, the bylaw will be defeated. Voters have until July 17 to cast a ballot if they desire.
Township chief administrative officer Doug Allin said the rail corridor is a regional asset.
“That level of government owns the assets,” he said. “They will choose how to manage the asset.”
Hearing about Spall’s concerns for a first time, RDNO board chairperson Bob Fleming said negotiations with CP went on for nearly a year and that at any point during that time, any communities could have been raising concerns about when RDNO gets the trail.
“I think the assumption has been that next step will have to occur if and when the purchase is completed, which is completely subject to voter approval,” said Fleming.
If the alternative approval process results in voters saying no to borrowing, the RDNO, said Fleming, will have nothing to operate.
If it passes, and the bylaw is adopted, how everything is organized and operated will be discussed.
“It was always understood that was Step 2,” said Fleming, adding the Splatsin First Nation has also been part of the negotiations, they own their portion of the corridor and committed their land to the deal.
“If the deal concludes and we purchase the property, then a significant amount of time will be made available on working out the details on how to operate the trail, how to share the costs of operation and who’s responsible.”
Fleming anticipates a fundraising effort similar to the one initiated by the Okanagan Rail Trail for the defunct rail corridor between Coldstream and Kelowna.