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Columbia Shuswap Regional District dismisses claim it plans to bring rails back to rail trail

CSRD administrator says updated agreement with Shuswap property owners ‘functionally the same’
Purchase of the Sicamous to Armstrong rail corridor by the Regional District of North Okanagan and the Columbia Shuswap Regional District (excluding portions owned by the Splatsin), was completed in early 2018. (Photo contributed)

A coalition of disgruntled dock owners claims the Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) plans to bring rails back to the Shuswap North Okanagan Rail Trail.

In Nov. 23 media release, a group calling itself the BC Dock Owners Coalition says a commuter train mega-project would be constructed where the CSRD and partners, Splatsin and the Regional District of the North Okanagan (RDNO), are working to build the rail trail.

Specifically, the group claims the CSRD plans to “…rebuild the old CP railway along the western shore of Mara Lake in the District of Sicamous. There will ultimately be no ‘linear park’ for the walking, hiking, and biking enjoyment of residents. Instead, a new railway will stand in its place.”

The coalition cited an updated License and Upland Consent Agreement between the CSRD and upland property owners as reason for their claim. The coalition, who’ve raised more than $124,000 on Gofundme for their cause (as of Dec. 2), want to ensure they get to keep access to their docks on Mara Lake.

The Nov. 23 media release was submitted to the Observer by Taleesha Thorogood, a senior business advisor with the law firm Fasken Martineau DuMoulin. In a previous media release, the coalition explained it had engaged Fasken “to represent us in efforts to preserve our docks and buoys.”

“We truly live in a post-truth society,” said CSRD chief administrative officer Charles Hamilton in response to the coalition’s claim. He explained the updated agreement is functionally the same as the one in place beforehand with CP Rail. For example, the word “licensor” in the original agreement is now “owner”.

“These are largely nominal changes… the agreement they had entered into willingly (with CP Rail), either the owner of the property or the previous owner of the property… this is substantively the same agreement,”said Hamilton. “In fact, we softened one of the main provisions of the agreement they had with respect to notice, from 30 days to 90 days.”

Hamilton said the wording changes were recommended by lawyers to reflect a more modern agreement.

With the memorandum of understanding between the CSRD, RDNO and Splatsin, Hamilton said it was agreed the rail trail corridor would remain a continuous corridor in the event that many years in the future, the owners might possibly require it for transportation purposes.

“We’re talking 50 to 80 years in the future,” said Hamilton. “Fifty-plus years in the future, if there’s a need for some sort of light-rail corridor, that’s been discussed. In terms of us going out there and building a railway now? That’s never been contemplated.”

He added it was insulting that the coalition would imply the CSRD would do that.

Read more: Property owners along Shuswap rail trail retain legal counsel in effort to preserve dock access

Read more: Sicamous denied rail trail ownership

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