Kal Lake Road

The Ribbons of Green Trails Society was formed many years ago to advocate for linear trails and parks for non-motorized use in the North Okanagan.

The need for such advocacy comes from the legislative history of B.C. Historically, unlike most of the rest of North America, we have not had legislation that provides strong protection for waterfront and riparian areas.

In most other jurisdictions, like the Prairie provinces and most U.S. states, for example, those protected areas provide land that can be used for public parks and trails. The construction of such public amenities is much more difficult in B.C. because that land is usually in private hands. That makes retrofitting linear parks and trails very expensive, difficult, and slow in B.C.

Vernon council and staff should be highly commended for their efforts to complete an off-road trail connection of downtown Vernon and Polson Park to the newly acquired Okanagan Rail Trail lands in Coldstream. That corridor runs 49.5 kilometres from Coldstream to downtown Kelowna.

The process for council was not easy, as money needs to be spent on Kalamalka Lake Road upgrades to facilitate a proper, safe, off-road, multi-use trail connection. Besides the capital cost, the construction of pubic assets often entails aggravation, noise, upset routines and financial stresses for those most affected during the work. This project is no different in that respect, from the sacrifices and irritation suffered by the businesses and residents nearest to 29th Street, 30th Street, and 43rd Avenue for examples, when they were upgraded.

We all benefit in the long-term, but those most closely affected at the time of construction, make more of a sacrifice during the construction, than the rest of us. There is no alternative.

In a community, we all take turns contributing our share of inconvenience and sacrifice for the benefit of all. Council and staff work hard to minimize those effects, but it is a reality of community sharing and building.

This difficult process was made even more difficult this time because it seemed that not all of council was committed to working co-operatively to deal with the issues.

That is the right of individual councillors, but it doesn’t help build great amenities. Kudos to council and staff for persevering.

Parks and trails are always in the top three wishes articulated in surveys of Vernon citizens of their vision for our community. The purchase of the CN railway right-of-way is a world-class asset that needs a connection to central Vernon to help maximize its value to the whole community.

The purchase of the abandoned CP Rail right-of-way from Sicamous to Armstrong is another potential, fantastic public investment. The value of a public cycling and pedestrian corridor from Sicamous to Kelowna and on to Osoyoos cannot be overestimated.

Vernon council and staff who displayed the wisdom, foresight and strength to persevere through the acrimonious process to secure this valuable connection along Kalamalka Lake Road deserve our sincere thanks.

Victor Cumming, president

Ribbons of Green Trails Society