Three years after the idea first surfaced, the Okanagan Rail Trail has officially been opened.
A ribbon cutting was held in Oyama today, with over 300 people on hand.
Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran says the public has totally bought into the plan from the start.
“This trail fundamentally changes how we get around this valley. It moves people, it connects communities, but it also makes sure we are living a healthy lifestyle,” Basran told the crowd.
Local governments and the province spent 22 million dollars to buy the 49 kilometre former rail line from Canadian National in 2015.
Duane Thompson from the Rail Trail Initiative says over five-thousand people donated to their fundraiser that generated 7.8 million dollars for construction of the recreational trail between Coldstream and Kelowna.
“We didn’t hold events, didn’t sell pies or cakes or anything like that. We just tried to inspire the community, and you know, it was a no brainer in many respects. This is such an important asset, and you collectively own it,” said Thompson.
Regional District of North Okanagan chair Bob Fleming says local governments and the province bought the former rail from C-N three years ago, and then the public took over.
“It took what to me was a spectacular initiative to raise the funds to construct this trail. And it happened so fast, to me, it’s nothing short of a miracle,” said Fleming.
L-R Bob Fleming RDNO, James Baker Lake Country, Ravi Kahlon NDP Government, Colin Basran Kelowna, and Sheldon Louis OKIB cut the ribbon on the new trail.
Lake Country Mayor James Baker says the trail will also be important for education, and their collaboration with the Okanagan Indian Band.
Baker, whose background is in archeology, says some of the sites along the line have had settlements dating back over 7,000 years.
“When you’ve walked these lands for seven thousand years, then you recognize the importance of how much you have to look after the environment, look after the fish, look after all of the aspects that we enjoy today in this valley,” said Baker
While most of the trail is open, the part between Duck Lake and the Kelowna Airport is not — as it’s still under review by senior governments.