North Okanagan residents are being urged to embrace a vision and not become fixated on the big-ticket price of a rail corridor between Coldstream and Kelowna.
Brad Clements, with the Okanagan Rail Trail Initiative, told the Vernon Rotary Club Wednesday that a deal among municipalities to purchase the Canadian National line is a positive move.
“Yes it’s $22 million, but there are tremendous benefits,” said the college economist.
“At some point, someone in Vancouver had the foresight to keep Stanley Park for future generations.”
Among the benefits of purchasing the 49.9-kilometre corridor, according to Clements, are access to 24 kilometres of waterfront, protecting the environment, encouraging a healthy lifestyle among residents and bolstering the economy through tourism.
“By ensuring the corridor remains as a transportation pathway, it will attract people,” he said, adding that a trail could generate $10 million in economic revenue within a decade.
“This is a once-in-a lifetime opportunity. We as a society are better to give up $22 million compared to the benefits that will go on forever.”
The track is within 500 metres of 23 parks and 23 points of interest.
While the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee, Lake Country and Kelowna work out specific details for the purchase, the Okanagan Rail Trail Initiative is looking towards the $7 million needed to actually develop the trail infrastructure.
“We will raise the money. We don’t want to put that burden on taxpayers,” said Clements referring to the need for a campaign for donations and grants.
“There’s enough will in the community that we’ll make this happen. We have people who are very eager to donate. We have one person who has given us a cheque for $250,000.”
There has been some media focus on the fact that a portion of the rail line goes through Okanagan Indian Reserve at Duck Lake. However, Clements isn’t convinced that will block trail development.
“The common vision is there,” he said of discussions between his group and the band.
A portion of the rail line along Kalamalka Lake is also part of the Okanagan Indian Band’s Commonage land claim.
“We can help them (band) find a solution with the federal government,” said Clements.
In the Shuswap, work continues behind the scenes to secure a similar corridor along the decommissioned CP Rail line from Sicamous to Armstrong. If successful, this would link to the Okanagan Rail Trail.
The Shuswap Trail Alliance continues to be an advocate for the Shuswap/North Okanagan Rail Trail. For more information, visit http://www.shuswaptrailalliance.com and view the public call to action.