When Lake Country resident Scott Wilson gets up every morning and heads to work, he doesn’t fire up the car and drive there, he gets out his bike, straps on the helmet and commutes via bicycle.
And it’s more than just a pedal down the street to a Lake Country business. Like many in Lake Country, Wilson works in one of the neighbor communities—for him it’s a construction job in Kelowna—and despite the more than 20 kilometres between his home and work, he jumps on his bike and heads to work, normally riding along Highway 97, what he calls the safest route for cyclists to get between Lake Country and Kelowna.
“It’s not that bad, it’s safer than Glenmore road,” said Wilson, with one of his two sons at the Lake Country Rail Trail Action team’s rally on Sunday at Beasley Park in Lake Country.
A father of two and a resident of Lake Country for the past eight years, Wilson says he is supporting Lake Country’s efforts to purchase the rail corridor that runs for 16 kilometres through Lake Country and spans from Kelowna to the edge of Vernon, in Coldstream.
“As a family we are for it,” he said. “It’s a good thing to pass on to future generations. I can see us using it on a weekly basis. Right now if we want to go for a bike ride we travel into Kelowna to go to the Mission Greenway but this way we could stay right here in our community. Most people I talk to are for it. Whether they come out and vote is another story.”
Getting the yes side out to vote is one of the main goals of the Lake Country Rail Trail Action team, a volunteer based group that raised close to $30,000 to run its office, which included a phone campaign, an open house as well as a public rally on Sunday, featuring music and information.
Campaign coordinator Duane Thomson said he’s been happy with the way things have gone for the yes-side in the past month.
“This is a celebration of what we can become as a community,” said Thomson. “Lake Country has a wonderful future. We can take control of our lakeshore and increase our tourism industry. I think we’ve answered a lot of questions the no side had. Our goal was to inform the public, get a big turnout and try not to divide the community and I think we’ve done that.”
Much of the concerns raised about the purchase of the rail corridor centre around the unknown costs that could be associated with purchasing the corridor as well as the impact on residents who live close to the rail corridor.
Resident Roger Bailey, whose great grandfather originally farmed his Oyama property and whose land is split by the corridor, says some of his questions have been answered but he has not been convinced there won’t be many issues surface if the corridor purchase goes ahead.
“At this point I don’t have much choice, I have to vote no,” said Bailey, who formed the group No to Being Railroaded to lobby against the purchase. “I see the community aspect of it but I think everyone would understand if the rail went a few feet from their kitchen window, they would think the same. I’m not confident anything is going to go well (with the purchase). There are a lot of extra costs coming.”
Lake Country’s Scott Wilson, whose young family lives in the Davidson Road area, says he understands the issues raised by residents who live close to the rail corridor. He says it would likely change the way he views it if he had the rail line coming that close to his property. But he also pointed to other trails, such as the KVR through Naramata that has had several trail-related businesses pop up around it, as one way to deal with it.
“If it was going through my yard I would have reservations,” said Wilson. “But I’ve seen what it’s done in other areas where there are businesses that have begun. I think there are opportunities. But you are losing some of your property. Yes or no, it’s important that you make your opinion noted. Whether it’s yes or no, this has been good for the community to get people talking.”