The focus remains on reopening a transportation network many businesses rely on and not creating a recreational trail.
Regional District of North Okanagan directors were reluctant Wednesday to show too much support for a trail along Kalamalka and Wood lakes because there is hope the rail line won’t be abandoned and cargo service will continue.
“There’s still an option for local businesses to band together,” said director Rob Sawatzky of another party operating the rail line other than Canadian National, which has stated it will not provide a service between Coldstream and Kelowna.
Presently, parties interested in acquiring the line for railway operations have until Dec. 2 to make their intentions.
If there is no interest from the private sector, the federal and provincial governments will be asked if they want the property. If that doesn’t occur, local government will have between March 5 and April 4 to state if there is interest in acquiring the track.
While there was some suggestion Wednesday to back a citizen-driven plan for a recreational trail, RDNO directors decided to hold off until after Dec. 2.
“It’s premature because business interests have to be supported first,” said director Bob Fleming.
“There are businesses that rely on that line and that should be the first priority.”
That view is also supported by members of the Okanagan Rail Trail Initiative.
“We support the businesses who rely on the railway,” said spokesperson Brad Clements.
However, Clements says that if private companies don’t take over the line, there is a need for the public and local government to ensure the track is a community asset and not sold to developers.
“Investing in such a thing will increase the liveability of the area,” he said of attracting new residents to the Okanagan and bolstering the economy.
“Tourism is the No. 1 employer in the Okanagan.”
It could possibly cost between $15 and $25 million to purchase the 50-kilometre track and while government assistance would be required, Clements says his group would also fundraise.
RDNO investigated acquiring the now abandoned rail track between Spallumcheen and Grindrod, but that plan was abandoned because of the high price tag.
“I like the concept and supporting keeping the corridor but it comes down to economics,” said director Mike Macnabb.
While CN is not interested in the track from Coldstream to Kelowna, it has decided to operate the line from Lumby to Kamloops.