The group of local governments working towards the construction of a recreational trail between Sicamous and Armstrong is seeking help from the provincial government.
An application for $500,000 in rural dividend funds was submitted by the Columbia Shuswap Regional District on July 31.
The 50-kilometre CP rail corridor running from Sicamous to Armstrong was purchased by a partnership of the Province, CSRD, the Regional District of North Okanagan (RDNO) and the Splatsin Indian Band in 2017.
The $500,000 grant being applied for will go towards funding a project manager position and preliminary design costs for the rail trail project.
According to a document provided by the District of Sicamous, a request for proposals to handle the environmental, archaeological and engineering portions of the project is also planned for 2018. The project timeline says that phase 1 construction on the rail trail, which will span 16 kilometres, is scheduled to begin in 2019. According to the timeline, the final phase of construction on the project will begin in 2022 or 2023.
Both the District of Sicamous and CSRD Electoral Area E, which represents the rural areas around Sicamous, are putting economic development funds behind the project. Each is contributing $168,000.
CSRD Area E director and board chair Rhona Martin said there are numerous reasons to support the rail trail project.
“There’s a trillion reasons why. There’s the opportunity for connectivity all the way down the line and, once this section is done, who’s to say where it could go from there – there could be the opportunity to go even further,” she said.
“There’s huge tourism opportunities, there’s huge recreational opportunities for the people that live here.”
Martin said she sees the project’s potential as an economic driver and having a route between Sicamous and Armstrong owned by local governments is important for possible transportation upgrades in the future.
“Say in 100 years if they need transportation lines. It’s owned by local government and my thoughts have always been that the trail that’s constructed should keep that in mind, we may have to share it with something a long time from now.”
She noted that purchasing the old rail corridor in 2017, rather than shortly before construction began on some future transportation route, will lead to big cost savings.
“I’ve always been a strong supporter of this project and I’m very grateful that the board of directors got behind this project and supported it the way they did.”
She said support came from parts of the Shuswap far from the planned trail and also from Revelstoke and Electoral Area B because the directors from other areas see benefits for the entire region.
Martin said the project will need input from the public going forward.
“When the time comes and we’re reaching out to the public for input, my request to the public would be, ‘please come and make us aware of your thoughts.’”
Martin said the trail will run along private property in some places when it is completed and the owners of those properties need to bring forward their concerns so the board can do its best to try and address them.
“When we want input we’re really relying on people to come and share their thoughts with us because at the end of the day that’s what builds a really good project is when there has been full participation.”
Terry Rysz, the mayor of Sicamous, said the project is going smoothly thanks to cooperation between local governments and the Shuswap Trail Alliance.
He said while a lot about the project remains to be seen, a similar trail project in the Kettle Valley near Kelowna attracts approximately 350,000 visitors per year.
Rysz said if the planned trail can get even one-tenth of that many visitors it will be a great benefit to the local economy in Sicamous and the surrounding area.
“We can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s going to be a spectacular addition to this beautiful part of the province,” Rysz said.