Province pledges $7.2 million for rail trail corridor

“By putting an unused rail line to better use, there will be more reasons to get outside.”

The Okanagan’s trail network could expand with a new recreational corridor between Kelowna and Coldstream, after the Government of B.C. pledged $7.2 million toward the acquisition of a discontinued CN rail line, Premier Christy Clark announced today.

“There are few places in the world that have more to offer outdoor enthusiasts than the Okanagan,” said Premier Clark. “By putting an unused rail line to better use, connecting communities as a cycling and walking trail, there will be even more reasons to get outside.”

The provincial contribution supports the efforts of an inter-jurisdictional acquisition team including the City of Kelowna, the regional districts of Central Okanagan and North Okanagan, the districts of Coldstream and Lake Country, and the City of Vernon. The team has been working together to acquire the $22-million property from CN.

The provincial money is still contingent on an April 25 referendum to be held in Lake Country, to raise its portion of the money for the purchase.

Almost 50 kilometres of the discontinued rail line will be transformed into a new trail that will offer cycling, hiking and other recreational activities for British Columbians and visitors to the Okanagan.

“We believe in the plans that the City of Kelowna and its partners have for this discontinued rail line and we think this project is a good investment for the local communities,” said Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone. “Dedicating almost 50 kilometres of the rail corridor for cycling and walking purposes will increase opportunities for healthy living and tourism activities in communities along the corridor – something that supports our B.C. on the Move 10-year transportation plan.”

This portion of the rail line was part of the Kelowna Pacific Railway, which ceased rail operations in July 2013. In September 2013, CN Rail began the formal process of discontinuing the remainder of the line. On Dec. 1, 2014, the City of Kelowna, on behalf of the inter-jurisdictional team, signed a negotiated sales and purchase agreement with CN for the discontinued portion of the line between Kelowna and Coldstream.

“The purchase of the rail corridor by local government on behalf of the current and future visitors and citizens of the Okanagan is an important capital priority,” said Minister of Agriculture and MLA for Kelowna-Lake Country Norm Letnick. “By making our intention clear to financially assist with the acquisition, I hope it will better inform residents of Lake Country as they consider how they will vote on the upcoming referendum.”

The provincial funding commitment is contingent on the positive outcome of the April 25 plebiscite in the District of Lake Country. If approved, the acquisition of the rail line from CN will be completed on June 1, 2015.

“This investment in our community is in support of an important project – a corridor for recreational activity in this wonderful region,” said Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and MLA for Kelowna-Mission Steve Thomson. “Through the efforts and investment of the project partners, a new recreational trail will be a highlight for these communities along the corridor.”

B.C. on the Move is government’s new 10-year plan for the improvement of the province’s transportation network. It provides a comprehensive road map for transportation investments and strategic policy actions over the next decade. The actions prioritized in B.C. on the Move will enhance safety, grow the economy, maintain and replace aging infrastructure, and support trade for B.C.’s expanding resource sectors through Canada’s Asia-Pacific Gateway.

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