Coldstream residents hear from Okanagan Rail Trail consultation team

A week of meetings last week wrapped up last week in Coldstream as the Inter-jurisdictional Development Team

Sisters Maureen (left) and Jacquie Wills review plans for the Okanagan Rail Corridor during an open house at the Coldstream municipal office Thursday.

Sisters Maureen (left) and Jacquie Wills review plans for the Okanagan Rail Corridor during an open house at the Coldstream municipal office Thursday.

A recreational corridor spanning half of the valley is generating a lot of interest.

A steady flow of people attended an open house Thursday at the Coldstream municipal office to look at plans for the Okanagan Rail Trail.

“I can hardly believe it’s going to happen,” said resident Harvey Gee.

“It’s right up there with Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park. It’s a huge asset to the region.”

The 49.5-kilometre abandoned rail corridor was purchased for $22 million by Kelowna, Lake Country and the Greater Vernon partners of Vernon, Coldstream and Areas B and C.

Resident Walt Duncan has cycled five recreational areas in Europe.

“This will be as good as any. It will be a money-maker for the region,” he said of tourism.

Avid cyclist Kit Johaneson is looking forward to the journey along Kalamalka Lake.

“It’s fabulous. This is a flat route and it will be friendly to use,” he said.

However, Jacquie Wills, who lives near the corridor, has some reservations.

“It’s a wonderful idea but they will have to work out parking for cars,” she said.

“I hope B.C. Parks establishes a spot for horses and trailers at Kekuli Bay Provincial Park for the trail.”

Planning for the trail is currently underway between the local governments and the Okanagan Indian Band, which shares a portion of the former track.

“We want to make sure we’re cognizant of any concerns and public expectations,” said David Sewell, Regional District of North Okanagan chief administrative officer.

It’s hoped construction will start in 2017 and the plan is for a four-metre-wide crushed gravel surface, although the trail mary be narrower along hillsides.

Local jurisdictions will pursue senior government grants for construction but much of the necessary money will come through fundraising by the Okanagan Rail Trail Initiative.

Brad Clement, with the ORTI, says more than $5 million will be needed for construction and he is confident there is public support.

“We have this amazing community and it will take everyone throwing money towards it,” he said, adding that fundraising could begin at the end of April.

“We have strong commitments already and other groups want to raise money.”

Besides Coldstream, public open houses have been held in Oyama, Winfield and Kelowna.

“Most people coming out say this is a great opportunity. People living closer to it have issues such as parking and litter control,” said Andrew Gibbs, City of Kelowna project manager.

Gibbs admits that while there have been common concerns, specific issues have arisen in some communities.

“In Coldstream, we have heard about horses but we have not heard about horses in Kelowna,” he said.