I enjoyed Garry Haas's letter to the editor on July 2, concerning the trail proposal for a pathway to Kelowna along the abandoned rail line.
I agree completely with his two main points, which were:
1. We need to save this route for future freight or rapid transit traffic.
2. The City of Vernon has long-term debt on a number of recent mega-projects, and much more projects, incurring debt, are being proposed
To his first point, to secure the line for the future, it needs to be purchased and held as a public asset. The true cost will be much less than the purchase cost, as the CN package contains valuable surplus properties that are not essential for the route, and can be sold or utilized, particularly within the City of Kelowna. And, unlike say an ice rink, this is an asset that will only grow in value.
Today, a rapid transit option is much too expensive for the population served.
But the population is growing, and transport solutions are dropping in cost. Say in 25 years, we may decide to open the line again.
At this point, it would be easy to shift the pathway to the side of the right-of-way, and let the trains roll again.
A gravel bed bike/walking path is not expensive to build and maintain.
To Garry's second concern, the economic study, which has been based on factual research from other existing paths in North America, shows a net economic profit on annual visitor revenue that will contribute towards paying down the long-term debt.
Kelowna would pick up the majority of this debt load, as it would gain the most value. Contributions, hopefully, from the federal and provincial governments, along with the sale of surplus properties, should leave manageable costs to Vernon and Lake Country.
In conclusion, we can remember the story of Beecher's folly. Beecher was the minister of transport in the U.K. in 1969, and oversaw a massive downsizing of the British Rail Service, where 3,000 miles of track were removed from service to smaller towns, and sold off privately.
Today, with traffic congestion and carbon reduction concerns, two of these major trunk lines are back in service, and others are likely to follow.
As you would expect, the cost of repurchasing the land from private holdings has been astronomical.
Dave G. Smith