A property purchase could act as an economic catalyst in Coldstream.

A property purchase could act as an economic catalyst in Coldstream.

BEYOND THE HEADLINES: It’s all about vision

Coldstream’s decision to acquire two acres for rail trail amenities makes complete sense.

There’s no question the two acres on Kalamalka Road have seen better days. After all, trees are overgrown, weeds abound and the property often poses as an impromptu used car lot.

However, Coldstream officials believe it could be so much more.

“People need to think of the vision of the property,” said Mayor Jim Garlick.

And there is significant potential when you consider that the start of the Okanagan Rail Trail will be just a short hike away.

If the Okanagan Rail Trail Initiative is correct, an additional 107,400 visitors will be attracted to the region annually to use the trail.

This could possibly pump  $6.7 to $8.7 million into the economy, and even if that figure is off slightly, the extra revenue going into businesses and families will be welcome.

However, if the valley is to throw the doors wide open to the world, basic infrastructure has to be in place.

And that’s where Coldstream’s decision to acquire the two acres between Dutch’s Campground and the Vernon boundary makes complete sense.

First off, it’s the largest vacant lot near the trail route that is available.

That means it could provide critical parking, while providing sufficient space for cyclists and hikers to tackle their adventure. Amenities could include washrooms and picnic tables, as well as some commercial activities.

Now there will be some residents who question the need to purchase the two acres when the seemingly spacious Kal Beach parking lot exists. But consider that during the heat of summer, when many people will likely hit the trail, the beach parking lot is full of sun-seekers’ vehicles. On top of this, the beach lot handles the overflow from the boat launch.

The bottom line is that the Kal Beach lot isn’t the answer, nor are the narrow, already congested residential roads in the immediate area.

Of course, we can’t ignore the cost of preparing the property for hikers and cyclists.

Figures aren’t known, but nothing needs to happen overnight, and money can be put away, little by little, in reserves to fund improvements. There is also the prospect that the other jurisdictions in Greater Vernon will come to the table with resources as it was a collective effort that invested in the northern portion of the former rail corridor.

While we’re focused on money, Coun. Glen Taylor has challenged the $550,000 being paid for the site.

“We had talked about this before at a different price. We agreed to stay within our allotment,” he said.

However, anyone who has ever purchased property before, knows that negotiations are truly that — give and take.

Also consider that the assessed value for the property is $615,100 — $565,000 for land and $50,100 for the existing buildings.

Obviously taxpayers’ dollars have to be used wisely, but not seizing an opportunity because of a few dollars and cents can also be shortsighted.

In this case, Coldstream is considering economic development as critical infrastructure just like roads, sidewalks and sewer. If we don’t plan ahead now for the  tourists flocking to the rail trail, we can potentially lose out as a community, or pay even more in the future as we try to catch up.

Garlick is right, that there needs to be a vision just as we had with the sports track, waterfront parks, the performing arts centre and Kal Tire Place.

These two acres are a diamond in the rough.