The interest and will are there but the timing is off.
That is the reaction of City of Salmon Arm Council which agreed to a motion to defer a request for funding from an Investing in Canada Infrastructure Grant for the West Bay Connector Project.
The West Bay Connector Nature Walkway is the next phase of the foreshore walkway that would connect the existing boardwalk west to Peter Jannink Park and would complete the portion of the trail within city limits.
But the dream is bigger than that, with plans by other groups to extend one trail to Secpwepemc band land and another to go as far as Tappen Bay.
While a detailed design of the walkway extension has not yet been completed, Rob Niewenhuizen, the city’s director of Engineering and Public Works, told councillors at the Jan. 14 council meeting that the project has been identified in Salmon Arm’s long-term financial plan.
But while Niewenhuizen told councillors staff felt the funding was a good opportunity to get 73 per cent of the project funded, after having met with community partners it was decided conversations between participating communities is required as well.
“The Trail Alliance is in support of the city applying for a grant for this project and is currently in discussions with First Nations regarding a potential parallel or joint grant application for the portion of the West Bay Trail fronting band land,” wrote Niewenhuizen in his report.
At the council meeting, Niewenhuizen advised councillors that from staff’s perspective, the timeframe for making an application was very short.
“And also, with the other partners involved, we still have some work to do,” he added. “But it’s a good way to get things started.”
Mayor Alan Harrison agreed and pointed out government partners, the Neskonlith Indian Band and the Adams Lake Indian Band and Shuswap Trail Alliance, who attended the meeting to plan the “exciting'” West Bay Connector are all on-board.
“There’s a lot of work to do and we’re not quite ready yet to make an application such as this, although, as Rob said, this really brought forward the need for future planning,” he said. “So coming out of that meeting, we agreed that staff from our three governments would meet to come up with a plan, an agreement on how we can move that project forward.”
Harrison noted that while seeking a grant application at this time is premature, he looks forward to taking advantage of possible future grants to help with the costly project.
Neskonlith elder Louis Thomas has been trying to make his dream of a trail linking Salmon Arm to Indigenous lands to the west a reality for more than 40 years.
“Once they get the agreement in place, we’ll see what kind of help they can give us,” he said, pointing out he now feels a bit more optimistic about a trail. “I think this time there’s a little more feeling that it’s finally going to happen. I just keep plugging away at it, it’s all I can do.”