Friday, December 3, 2021
The Shuswap North Okanagan Rail Trail partners remain united in their vision for a recreational trail that will be a world-class attraction, serving more than 136,000 residents and potentially attracting millions of visitors.
The three ownership partners have an unwavering commitment to developing this trail for the enjoyment of all, despite the efforts of a select few adjacent property owners to undermine the integrity of the trail development process.
The rail trail lands are owned by the Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD), Splatsin te Secwepemc and the Regional District of North Okanagan (RDNO), who came together with the shared goal of a contiguous recreational and transportation corridor as an economic driver for the participating communities.
A recent press release from the BC Dock Owners Coalition claims the CSRD is planning to construct a "Commuter Train Mega Project," rather than a recreational walking and cycling trail between Sicamous and Armstrong.
The trail ownership partners are appalled by this misinformation and the blatant attempt to discredit the project.
"This is a project that has created much excitement in the region because our taxpayers see the genuine benefit to residents and visitors alike," says Kevin Acton, Board Chair of the RDNO. "To have a group of non-waterfront property owners try to misrepresent the intentions of this project and make such baseless claims is very disappointing."
The Coalition is a group of approximately 22 property owners adjacent to the publicly owned Rail Trail. They have recently hired a law firm and an Alberta-based lobbyist to counter the regional districts' efforts to resolve agreements that would allow these property owners to cross the publicly owned land to access docks on Mara Lake and consent to connecting their docks to regional district-owned lands.
Members of the Coalition have taken issue with the wording of proposed upland consent and crossing agreements, which are virtually identical to those previously made between these owners and CP Rail, prior to the purchase of the lands by the CSRD and RDNO.
The agreements with CP Rail allowed for a cancellation of access to these docks with 30-days notice. The proposed agreement with the CSRD and RDNO already made concessions to these property owners, including requiring 90-days notice before any termination of the agreement.
"These are lands owned by the taxpayers and we will not enter into agreements giving these owners absolute permission to have a dock forever. CP Rail would not give up that right before, and we won't give in to high-priced pressure or smear tactics from this select group either. Protecting the public interest in the Rail Trail is paramount," says Kevin Flynn, Board Chair of the CSRD.
Similar to the Okanagan Rail Trail Agreement, the proposed Sicamous to Armstrong Rail Trail references a long-term commitment to protect the corridor into the future as a public "multi-modal transportation corridor," with light rail transit as a possible long-term consideration.
"Simply put, there is no Commuter Train Mega-Project in the works," says Flynn. "Every day, steps are being taken towards getting this recreational walking and cycling trail built. That is our focus, regardless of any press release claiming otherwise."
The Rail Trail partners are grateful for the continued support of citizens and corporate donors for contributing to this trail project's long-term legacy.
"We know there is excitement in our communities and among our residents for this project to become a reality that will support regional economic growth. The Rail Trail is on unceded Secwepemc title lands, this fact needs to be acknowledged," says Kukpi7 Wayne Christian of the Splatsin te Secwepemc.
The three ownership partners recently received notification from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure of a successful $500,000 grant application, which will be leveraged with funding from the CSRD and District of Sicamous to develop a 19.8 km section of the Rail Trail from Sicamous to Mara. In addition, the partners received funding from the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association and Province of BC to complete a test section within the areas adjacent to Splatsin through the City of Enderby.
Both projects are expected to be completed in 2022.
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