The Okanagan Rail Trail Initiative has committed to raising $5 million towards construction along the CN Rail corridor should the municipalities be able to complete the purchase of the 47 kilometre long rail bed.
The rail trail group based in Vernon made the announcement Tuesday morning at the opening of the yes campaign headquarters in Lake Country and says taxpayers won’t be asked to subsidize construction or maintenance of the trail if it is purchased by the inter-jurisdictional group.
Rail trail director Brad Clements says his group will have no problem raising the $5 million from individuals or businesses and added they could leverage that amount for another $5 million in grants towards developing a transportation corridor.
“We’ve always said we are willing to raise money for the construction costs of the trail but there seems to be some uncertainty about where that money is going to come from,” said Clements. “Absolutely, there will be no additional costs to the taxpayers. We are very confident we can raise that ($5 million). There are all kinds of companies and individuals saying we want this and want to provide money for it.”
Clements said his group already has financial commitments of $350,000 from two individual property owners in the area and adds there are many more individuals and companies that have come forward asking how to support the trail with financial donations.
A study done by the Okanagan Rail Trail Initiative estimated it would take $7.3 million to develop the trail after it is purchased.
The announcement Tuesday morning was part of an information campaign underway to get the word out about Lake Country’s April 25 referendum on borrowing $2.6 million to purchase the trail along with Kelowna and the North Okanagan Regional District.
Yes campaign manager Duane Thomson says future costs of the trail is a major question people are asking about the project.
“This is a pay-as-you go project so we don’t have to do everything in the first year,” said Thomson. “We will not be asking local taxpayers with any help with development costs of the trail. There is a fear by locals that they will be charged for maintenance of the trail. All of the objections to the trail are based on the argument that there is going to be more costs coming afterwards which is not true.”
Lake Country residents Bob and Lynn Hansen dropped by the yes campaign headquarters on Main Street for some information before the official opening. Long-time residents of Lake Country, the couple’s acre-size property edges up on the CN Rail corridor and they say there is already a lot of people using it as a trail.
“I think people will come from all over to use this, it’s so gorgeous,” said Lynn. “We support this. It’s just part of community spirit and community support. It’s such a good thing for everyone in the community.”
“We haven’t heard too many many people against this,” added Bob. “I talk to people all the time and I have just heard one person say they are against it.”