To the editor:
The referendum on the acquisition of the CN rail bed through Lake Country will decide the future of the corridor and also the future of Lake Country, particularly Oyama. Writers to your newspaper have provided a long list of the recreational, cultural, health, safety, environmental and economic reasons why the public should acquire the rail bed. Another consideration for Lake Country residents as they decide how to vote is what will happen to the rail corridor if the current referendum fails.
The most likely immediate result will be the continued ownership of the corridor by CN, which will be free to dispose of the property piecemeal to the highest bidder. The corridor will be lost forever. Councillor Owen Dickie has painted a stark picture of condos lining the lakeshore along the Oyama isthmus, denying public access to the beach. Perhaps some people are not aware that the entire beach on Wood Lake including the section across from the Community Hall, long a favourite of Oyama families, will be privatized.
It would be possible for the District of Lake Country to purchase a section of that rail bed from CN to provide public access to that beach on Wood Lake, but lakeshore land is prohibitively expensive. Lakeshore land on nearby Kalamalka Lake has a current assessed value of approximately $13,889 per foot of shoreline. That figure likely holds for that particular prime beach on Wood Lake. At that price, the District of Lake Country could purchase a 400-foot beach for approximately $5.4 million.
Why not buy the whole right of way including all of the CN-owned lakeshore along the east side of Wood Lake, across the isthmus, and along the west side of Kalamalka Lake for $5.1million, with initial investment of $2.6 million? Put another way, the district would acquire 105 acres of prime real estate for under $50,000 per acre.
A less likely scenario is that the City of Kelowna becomes the sole owner of the prime lakeshore property along these lakes. Kelowna will then do what is in its own best financial interests to recover its investment. Where Kelowna identifies land that is surplus to the needs of the transportation corridor, it would sell those lands. A good portion of the value to be realized in “surplus” land is in the broad strip of CN land along the Oyama isthmus. Why wouldn’t Kelowna sell that land to pay off the $5.1 million investment and add to its own cash reserves?
We must keep control over our lands and our future. If the referendum fails and the District of Lake Country is unable to purchase 50 per cent of the equity in that portion of the rail bed within its boundaries, it will have “no skin in the game.” It will abrogate all decision-making power for the prime lakeshore land within its boundaries to other bodies with their own interests.
That is really difficult for me to contemplate.
Duane Thomson, Lake Country