EDITORIAL: Officials must support rail trail

If there is ever the time for various levels of government to come together, now is it.

Specifically, the clock is ticking for federal and provincial officials, as well as municipalities, regional districts and First Nations, to hammer out a deal that would preserve the rail corridor from Coldstream to Kelowna for public use, instead of it falling into the hands of developers.

“It’s crunch time. We now have 90 days. By the fall, this process will be decided,” said Julie Melanson, with the Okanagan Rail Trail Initiative, which is pushing for a recreational trail along the rail bed.

Local politicians, including MP Colin Mayes and MLA Eric Foster, are indicating support personally for acquiring the land from Canadian National Rail. However, more needs to be done.

Okanagan Valley MLA and MPs, including Premier Christy Clark, need to establish a formal lobby group that petitions their respective governments to not sit on the sidelines, but to put funds towards a corridor that would have significant social and economic benefits. If the two senior levels of government come on board, then municipalities, regional districts and residents with individual donations will quickly fall into place.

First Nations must also be at the table as some of the rail line goes through reserve land, as well as their traditional territory.

Yes, acquiring the land won’t be cheap, but consider that within five years, the trail could attract 600,000 users and generate $6.7 million in spending by tourists. That would become a significant boost to the economy and truly make the valley an international destination.

Put pressure on your elected officials to directly get involved by going to www.okanaganrailtrail.ca.


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