There’s still opportunity for the Shuswap to become a hub of one of the of the most ambitious trail projects in the province, provided more people get onboard.
The Shuswap Trail Alliance is asking the public to help in the push for government support of the Shuswap-North Okanagan rail trail concept that could potentially link Sicamous to other communities along decommissioned rail lines extending to the U.S. border. This includes a connection to the famous Kettle Valley Rail Trails.
The District of Sicamous, the cities of Enderby, Salmon Arm and Vernon, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District and the Splatsin First Nation are already backing the plan, and this summer were successful in garnering support from the Union of B.C. Municipalities for a resolution calling on the B.C. government to “facilitate public acquisition and ownership of abandoned transportation corridors,” and to work with UBCM to develop a funding mechanism, such as a provincewide parcel tax, to help governments or community groups purchase and maintain corridors for public recreational use.
Still, for this to be successful, the Trail Alliance’s Lori Schneider Wood says communities along the proposed corridor better have a vision and a plan in place.
“I’d guess… there’s maybe a 20 per cent chance of pulling this through right now without having the government levels all saying no,” said Schneider Wood. “So that’s why it’s so important the communities have working groups ready when this is all done.”
Key elements corridor communities have to be taking into consideration, says Schneider Wood, are acquisition, funding, who will build and maintain the trail/greenway, and how will it be managed?
Another question to consider is will the trail be motorized or non-motorized. Schneider Wood says a decision to make a portion of the Kettle Valley Trail multi-use (including motorized) has resulted in negative word-of-mouth among the global cycling community, particularly European cyclists.
“The best international advertising basically is word of mouth… and if that’s what’s happening, that’s not good,” said Schneider Wood, adding cyclists tend to bring more money to a community than vehicle tourism.
“What do they have, right? They all need accommodations, they don’t have food, they’re all limited to what they’re carrying,” she said. “Communities have to figure out what the best value looks like.”
Salvage work began this spring on CP Rail’s discontinued Sicamous-to-Armstrong line, and CP says the land corridor is “under review.” At the same time, the company is still engaged in in-camera negotiations with the Splatsin. Operations ceased on the line in August 2009. In July 2010, the District of Sicamous expressed interest in acquiring the corridor between Sicamous and Grindrod, requesting a determination of net salvage value.
The district offered an estimated salvage cost of $511,000, and a land value of about $2 million. In August 2012, CP responded with a net salvage value of close to $20 million, and the district chose not to purchase. The Regional District of North Okanagan went through a similar process with the same end result.
During Sicamous’ in-camera negotiations, Schneider Wood says the Trail Alliance waited patiently, unable to do anything else. Now she and the alliance are encouraging Shuswap residents, and Alberta residents with homes in the Shuswap, to help make the rail trail reality. She says Sicamous, in particular, should be onboard 100 per cent, as the community could benefit financially from being the northern trailhead or hub.
“Everybody wants to start right at the hub,” said Schneider Wood. “When I did the rail trail at Kettle Valley, I said when I start it I want to start at the trail hub, right at the border. That’s what Sicamous is. Not only that, it’s right near the junction for the Trans-Canada and Highway 97A. Not only that, you’ve got the lake. So yeah, Sicamous should be a no-brainer.”
The trail alliance has an action form people can fill out and submit to their local government officials as well as the province. It can be found at http://www.shuswaptrailalliance.com.