The Oyama isthmus has the potential to be the heartbeat of the Okanagan Rail Trail, according to a local businessperson.
Allan Gatzke, with Gatzke Orchards, is promoting plans for Oyama Spirit Square, a central gathering point on the trail as it passes between Wood and Kalamalka lakes.
The concept calls for a replica train platform, drinking water, washrooms, parking, a heritage park including monuments and displays, a day-use picnic area as well as trail-head for information.
The proposed area is across from the Oyama fire hall and near the community hall, a portion of the corridor that features excess lands and already has two gravel parking lots and plenty of room for the development, said Gatzke.
He pegged the total cost at $140,000 with some in-kind construction donations, money he says could be raised in 12 months by fundraising and grants, outside of what is being raised for the development of the trail.
“It could put us back on the map,” said Gatzke, adding that the relocation of Highway 97 diverted a lot of traffic away from Oyama but the rail trail could be a major benefit in getting more people out to the area.
“The relocation of the highway has been both positive and negative. But Oyama has the potential to be more than it ever would have been had the highway not moved. This type of development is attractive to inbound international tourists and at the same time would be convenient to the community, useful and functional.”
Gatzke said as the rail trail runs between the two lakes in Oyama, it is virtually in the centre of the 47.5-kilometre stretch that runs from Kelowna to Coldstream.
He envisions Oyama as a place where tourists could park and begin to explore the rail trail, going north or south.
“This is the middle of the rail trail geographically,” he said.
“It could be a place where stories are told about how the Okanagan developed and the role the railway played in the settling and growth and economics of the area.
“There are economic benefits for Oyama but tourists would find it an interesting place. This is probably the best place for parking (on the trail) and a great strategic location.”