Rail trail work causes debate

RDNO says there must be a balance between recreation users and private property owners

The needs of recreational enthusiasts and private land owners are trying to be balanced along the Okanagan Rail Trail.

The Regional District of North Okanagan received complaints last week about trees being removed along the corridor.

“A private property owner undertook work on leased land from the regional district,” said David Sewell, chief administrative officer.

“We have informed them that they must inform and have permission from the regional district. He has agreed to stop.”

Bob Galloway, the private property owner, confirms some Chinese elm trees were removed.

“They are in invasive species. We got everything with the regional district straightened out.”

There was also a concern from some residents about survey posts along the trail and the private property south of Westkal Road in Coldstream.

“They have a right to determine where their boundaries are,” said Sewell of the property owner.

There is no road access to the private property and the surveyors apparently used the rail trail although motorized vehicles are not allowed.

Sewell says the surveyors should have accessed the private property without vehicles or at least asked RDNO for permission to use vehicles.

Galloway says his family has owned land along Kalamalka Lake for many years and while it is private, it does get used by the public.

“There are more and more bonfires and as a result, the district gets these phone calls (complaining about activities there). We are having discussions with the regional district on how to handle the issue,” said Galloway.

A number of residents have written a letter to RDNO about the tree removal.

“The rail trail corridor is a significant public asset acquired with funding from local and provincial governments. Thousands of citizens, volunteers and businesses throughout the North Okanagan are donating and fundraising millions of dollars to create a world class recreation and tourism amenity,” states the letter.

“We expect our local and provincial governments to continue to protect our collective investment.”

Sewell says RDNO may have to look at how to manage public expectations on the rail trail, particularly given that not all of the property along the corridor is public.

“There are private land interests and we have to be cognizant of those,” he said.

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