RDOS says no to lakeside trail from Penticton to Summerland

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Published: 
21 January, 2016

The Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen has politely declined participation in a four-party master plan for a bike link between Penticton and Summerland along Highway 97.

The B.C. government proposed a study on a multi-use trail linking Trout Creek to Penticton with the cost being shared by the province, City of Penticton, RDOS and District of Summerland.

The master plan would cost $110,000, with each partner's share being $27,500. If approved, the trail would cost around $7.8 million.

Earlier this week, Penticton city councillors delayed their decision, stating they'd first like to meet with representatives from the Trail of the Okanagans group.

RDOS directors liked the idea, but said their main focus has always been on an upper trail located on the old KVR Rail site. The rail will soon be the property of the Penticton Indian Band, which indicated it would be open to negotiations.

"We've done a very rigorous study and one of these is better than the other," said Area F (West Bench) director Michael Brydon. "If the province is offering to throw in $2 million, maybe they should put that money into the high road which would help the PIB and get that process moving again."

Brydon said the new 1.5 km trail linking Trout Creek with Lower Summerland hasn't even been open a year and time is required to study the success of that section of trail.

"I smell some kind of political objective here," said Area D (Okanagan Falls-Kaleden) director Tom Siddon. "We can't even get (Ministry of) Highways to upgrade Eastside Road, for example. Is it fun to ride a bike on the shoulder — I know it is grate-separated — along a stinking highway with diesel trucks going by at 100 km/hour? That's no experience."

Siddon noted Lake Country held a referendum on purchasing a portion of an old railway track and it barely passed.

"There's a remedy for this and that's to hold a referendum," he said. "And I know the City of Penticton would love to have a referendum and I suspect they'd reject it."

Summerland Mayor Peter Waterman said financing would be a problem.

"I can see where the funding would become the whole issue," said Waterman. "For us, if we contributed to a lakeshore trail it would be $40,000 that would clean us out. I can't see us moving ahead with it."

Directors were also told that if the four-way partnership is approved, Penticton and Summerland would be paying twice, first with their quarter-share and also with their contributions to the RDOS.

"Maybe we could look at a different funding model like maybe having the province pay for it," said Helena Konanz, a Penticton city councillor. "Using the four stakeholders as their model, I can say the province is double-dipping here with Penticton and Summerland for sure.”

Directors voted 16-1 against participating in the four-way partnership for the Master Plan. Penticton director Andre Martin was the lone dissenting vote.

Comments

I have enormous respect for grass-roots initiatives, such as the trail along the lake from Summerland to Penticton.   But after talking to RDOS staff, it seems likely the that $8M price tag is a lower bound.  The engineering and construction costs could be substantially higher.

At the same time, we have an abandoned railbed from the edge of Penticton right into Summerland.  It is already constructed and graded (to a comfortable 2%).  The views along this upper route between Penticton and Summerland are fantastic--they rival those on the east side Naramata portion of the KVR.  And there are no big trucks or fumes.

The key issue, as discussed elsewhere, is that the KVR trail from Penticton to the Trout Creek trestle is currently owned by the CPR and will eventually be owned by the Penticton Indian Band.  Securing the railbed for trail use will almost certainly involve some form of lease agreement with the PIB.  This will cost money.  Moreover, the railbed has been so washed-out and torn-up over the years that it is, in its current state, unsuitable for many activities.  Resurfacing the trail will cost money.  Still, I cannot imagine a lease and resurfacing for the KVR to cost anywhere near $10M.  That is the bottom line.

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