Sicamous to Armstrong rail trail. (Photo contributed)

Column: Many potential benefits to Shuswap North Okanagan Rail Trail

By Jim Cooperman

Contributor

The Shuswap is poised to reap substantial benefits from the Shuswap North Okanagan Rail Trail once it is completed.

The 50-kilometre-long, three to 4.6-metre-wide, non-motorized trail will extend from Sicamous to Armstrong and one day it could be connected to the recently completed Vernon-Kelowna Rail Trail that may eventually reach Osoyoos.

The success of the project to date is due to the collaboration between the Splatsin, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District and the Regional District of the North Okanagan, with strategic expertise from the Shuswap Trail Alliance.

There are many examples of successful rail trails in B.C., Canada and throughout North America, including the Slocan Valley, numerous trails on Vancouver Island, the Galena Trail near New Denver and the very popular Myra Canyon Trestles Trail that was once part of the Kettle Valley Railway, and sees more than 40,000 visitors per year. All of these trails attract many thousands of hikers and bikers every year, which has benefited the local communities immensely.

When work began to secure the corridor from Canadian Pacific Railway, organizers determined there was no need to produce an economic impact analysis, because there was already an excellent study done for the Okanagan Rail Trail, which could be easily extrapolated to the then proposed northern section. Their study projected more than 500,000 yearly visitors, nearly $7 million in spending and nearly 70 person years of employment after five years.

Read more: Greeting card sales support Sicamous to Armstrong rail trail project

Read more: Erosion, flooding push Sicamous-to-Armstrong Rail Trail estimate to $22.9 million

Amazingly, the study vastly underestimated how popular the trail would be, as the projected number of visitors in the fifth year was achieved in just the first full year, 2019, and the numbers continued to increase last year. Many of the businesses along the route have increased their number of customers, including a general store in Oyama that added a bike rental service. Of course, the Okanagan trail is situated in a region with more than 200,000 residents, which is nearly four times greater than the Shuswap/North Okanagan. However, if the positive impacts here were one quarter that of the Okanagan, the benefits would still be very significant.

The benefits of the rail trail are more than just monetary, as it will encourage healthy living as more people will be actively enjoying the stunning scenery along Mara Lake, the Shuswap River and the surrounding farmland. Environmental stewardship will be a key attribute of the trail, as improvements will be made to prevent erosion and discourage misuse and users will gain more appreciation for nature. As well, it will help foster improved relationships with the Splatsin community as the trail will help improve understanding of Secwepemc values and culture.

There are a number of focal points along the route that will add to trail experience. Sicamous is filled with tourists every summer, and many of them will undoubtedly discover the merits of the rail trail and decide to spend an extra day to experience it. Some might decide to simply take a short walk to Mara Point Provincial Marine Park to enjoy the view, or hike just over seven kilometres to Mara Beach for a swim.

Rosemond Lake, which was likely once part of Mara Lake before the inlet was mostly blocked when the original Shuswap and Okanagan Railway was built in 1892, is another key feature.

Another value of the trail will be its potential to provide non-motorized transportation options between rural communities. As well, planning work is continuing to provide more opportunities for access from the trail to other features along the route.

All the benefits from the rail trail will not come easily, given the total cost of the project will be $17 million or more. It will be necessary for both the provincial and federal governments to provide a substantial amount of funding. However, in order for that to happen, it will be key for local residents and businesses to contribute a significant percentage of the total. A clever funding project is now underway with a goal to “sell” 50,000 metres at $160 each. Visit shuswapnorthokanagantrail.ca to contribute to this most worthwhile project.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Outdoors and Recreation

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

A springtime view of Rosemond Lake from the unfinished rail trail. (Jim Cooperman photo)

A springtime view of Rosemond Lake from the unfinished rail trail. (Jim Cooperman photo)

Just Posted

An Interior Health nurse administers Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aids in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16, 2021. (Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News)
105 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

Just over 8,000 new vaccine doses administered in the region for a total of 158,000 to date

Twin falls in Yoho National Park. Yoho is one of the mountain parks whose draft management plan is now available for review. (Claire Palmer photo)
Local input sought to shape future of mountain national parks

Banff, Yoho, Kootenay, Mount Revelstoke and Glacier national parks are amongst those seeking input

The last 400 bear-proof garbage bins will be rolled out this spring. Keri Sculland/Star Photo
The bear-proof garbage bins are a must to keep bears out of town. Keri Sculland/Star Photo
Bear bins required as weather warms

The Town is reminding people to make use of their bear bins now that the bears are back in town

Titanic was the largest and most luxurious ship in the world. Photo provided and colourized by Jiri Ferdinand.
QUIZ: How much do you know about the world’s most famous shipwreck?

Titanic sank 109 years ago today, after hitting an iceberg

In a feature article published April 10, 2021 in The Times of London, ‘headlined British Columbia has what it takes to rival Napa Valley,’ the valley is praised extensively for its natural beauty and wine. (File photo)
From the U.K. with love: Okanagan wine, scenery receives international praise

The Times of London newspaper recently featured the valley in a wine and travel piece

Arlene Howe holds up a picture of her son, Steven, at a memorial event for drug overdose victims and their families at Kelowna’s Rotary Beach Park on April 14. Steven died of an overdose at the age of 32 on Jan. 31, 2015. (Aaron Hemens - Kelowna Capital News)
Moms Stop the Harm members placed crosses Wednesday morning, April 14, on Rotary Beach in memory of children lost to drug overdoses. (Aaron Hemens - Capital News)
Kelowna mothers remember children lost to the opioid crisis

It has been five years since illicit drug deaths was announced a public health emergency

Demonstrators at the legislature on April 14 called on the province to decriminalize drug possession and provide widespread access to regulated safe supply across B.C. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
Rally calls for decriminalization, safe supply on 5th anniversary of overdose emergency declaration

From 2016 to the end of February, 7,072 British Columbians died due to overdose

A Keremeos family lost their home after a fire shortly before midnight on April 13. No injuries were reported. (Contributed)
Keremeos home destroyed in late-night fire

The family inside was unharmed

Naloxone
Op/Ed: Interior Health CEO speaks on five years of strides and challenges in overdose crisis

In 2020, close to 4,000 people across IH had access to opioid medications

Somewhere in the pack being celebrated by his teammates is Vernon Vipers forward Zack Tonelli, who scored in overtime Wednesday afternoon, April 14, to give the Snakes a 6-5 win over the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in B.C. Hockey League pod play at Kal Tire Place. (Liza Mazurek - Vernon Vipers Photography)
Vernon Vipers bite Salmon Arm Silverbacks in OT

Snakes blow 5-3 third-period lead, rally in extra time for 6-5 pod play result over rivals

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

New parking meters have been installed on Main Street, Ellis Street, Front Street, Nanaimo Avenue and Padmore Avenue in Penticton. (City of Penticton photo)
Pay parking now in effect in downtown Penticton

A spot downtown will now cost you $2 per hour

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 1, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps to 1,168 Wednesday, nearly 400 in hospital

Now 120 coronavirus patients in intensive care, six more deaths

Moss covered branches are seen in the Avatar Old Growth Forest near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island, B.C. Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. blockades aimed at protecting old-growth forests reveal First Nation split

Two Pacheedaht chiefs say they’re ‘concerned about the increasing polarization over forestry activities’ in the territory

Most Read