October matching program pushing late month donations

Okanagan Rail Trail matching donours hope final week push comes through with more donations

Maurice Strong looks forward to the day that the rail trail is developed and safe for all users.

Maurice Strong looks forward to the day that the rail trail is developed and safe for all users.

With a week left for donations to be matched, Okanagan Rail Trail ambassadors are hoping that the change of season has not dampened the community’s enthusiasm for trail construction.

A matching donations campaign has been underway for the month of October.

“Since October 1, when the matching campaign began, $126,000 has come in,” reports Brad Clements, “We had hoped for a strong campaign that would increase our ability to be successful with large upcoming grant applications, and prepare for substantial work next spring. If fundraising momentum slows, it will take us longer to get a properly constructed trail. It would also be unfortunate to not to take advantage of the $500,000 opportunity the group of seven anonymous trail supporters have provided.”

Seven anonymouse donours are offering to match donations during the month of October, one of them pledging $250,000 and her enthusiasm is not wavering.

“I am totally behind this project. It is so much more than a trail, and will have so many regional benefits. In my neighbourhood in Lake Country, I love to see the enthusiasm when hikers or bikers experience the route for the first time,” she said. “I am more worried that a loss of momentum could affect the network of volunteer trail ambassadors and campaign partners working so hard to make this happen.”

Rail trail ambassadors are currently working on an application for the Rural Dividend Fund, and will apply for a Bike BC grant, a grant that has recently announced increased funding and accelerated deadlines.

“Both of these grants, require base funding for the trail that will come from donations. The more donations secured this fall, the better the probability of receiving these grants, potentially worth over $1.3 million combined,” said Clements.

“With strong community support, it is possible to finish the trail in 2018,” added trail ambassador Duane Thomson. One group particularly anxious for trail development is students commuting from Kelowna to UBCO. “They are very concerned, particularly about the safety of road crossings on their current route,” said Thomson.

Another user who would love to be able to use the trail soon is Maurice Stong, from Vernon. Last week, Maurice set out to experience the corridor starting from Kalamalka Beach. Riding in his specially adapted Terratrike, Maurice loved the route, but found the surface too rough, and had to cut short his trip and return to Vernon via the highway from Kekuli Provincial Park.

Maurice is fit, and not afraid of hard work and a bumpy ride, but says, “I cannot risk damaging the bike that provides my freedom.” Last year, Maurice moved to the Okanagan from Manitoba on his Terratrike, towing his wheelchair.

“There are so many people excited about the rail trail, and who appreciate the urgency to stay on track”, said Thomson. “We need to spread the word to friends and family, and get those donations in. I have faith that the community will come through.”

Donations can be made at https://www.okanaganrailtrail.ca/donate