Kaleden residents turned up in large numbers to discuss complex KVR trail issues at Kaleden Community Hall on June 4.
Kaleden Recreation Commission Chair Gail Owen, RDOS Area “D” Director Tom Siddon, Boundary – Similkameen MLA John Slater and John Hawkings, Provincial Trails Manager made themselves available to answer residents’ questions and update the community on continuing negotiations with respect to trail access across a portion of the trail that was sold to private interests in 2010.
Discussions also focussed on the controversial Sickle Point lands, adjacent to the private portion of the right of way. A road that many consider illegal was built along the shoreline in 1992, rankling many in the community over the years.
Through KVR trail access was cut off earlier this year when negotiations for a land swap between the owner of the privately owned portion of right of way, Debi McGinn, and the province appeared to stall.
McGinn has since reopened the trail as an act of good faith while negotiations continue.
During the open mike segment of the meeting, a majority opinion expressed a desire to have government look at the possiblity of purchasing McGinn’s property, with some expressing the desire for the public to acquire Sickle Point, which is intertwined in the current negotiations the province is undertaking with McGinn.
The history of Canadian Pacific’s divestment of the portion of their KVR rail corridor through Kaleden since the company abandoned the corridor in the early 1990’s is a complex one. CP’s real estate arm, Marathon Realty, retained a couple of choice sections of the line with the intention of subdividing them at a future date. That never happened, and over the past 20 years the company sold off the two sections of right of way.
Several residents insisted that through access to the private portion of the trail should never have been relinquishd and should be restored.Others felt that past incompetency was responsible for the current state of the trail in Kaleden.
“Going from trail to road to trail again is a recipe for disaster,” said one resident.
“Is Alder Avenue the new KVR?”
Hawkings explained early negotiations between Marathon and the province, noting that intentions had always been to divert the trail to existing streets paralleling the areas retained by the realty company.
Several residents appeared to indicate that money was no object with respect to the acquisition of the shoreline properties.
“We should try to get that land back,” said one, “it’s unfortunate it has gone the way it has.”
It was also noted that property owner McGill was not interested in selling at present market value,
Area “D” Director Tom Siddon noted that at present real estate prices, the Kaleden taxpayer would be taking on a significant debt load to acquire the land. One resident commented that he would be willing to take on a debt of four or five hundred dollars a year, noting that borrowing was cheap these days, and assuming the regional district could amortize a loan for the purchase over 20 years or so. There was some comment over the possiblity of purchasing the Sickle Point property as well, but it was again noted that borrowing money for the purchase entailed additional pressures on the taxpayer.
“Where there’s a will there’s a way,” offered one hopeful.
“I’ve been a resident of Kaleden for 50 years,” added another member of the audience, “and I don’t want to see condos on the KVR.”
Responding to comments that blamed today’s complications on mistakes of the past, MLA John Slater explained, “In the old days, the province deeded lands to the CPR with no strings attached. They never saw the future.”
Another resident indicated that there should be little sympathy for McGinn, as she “knew of this hornet’s nest. It’s buyer beware.”
The current resident of a small piece of leased property at the north end of Alder Avenue told the meeting that Sickle Point owner Mel Reeves “has been very good to us,” commenting also that he resides on a lot that is not currently legal size.
“I had hoped to retire here,” he said, but I am afraid that this is the piece of property that will be involved in a land swap.”
Hawkings informed the gathering that Reeves road was, indeed legal commenting that “Legal access had been provided to Sickle Point in 1992.”
As the meeting wound down, Kal Rec Chair Owen asked for a show of hands.
“How many want the road to Sickle Point removed?” she asked, to a strong majority raising their hands.
“What about shared access of the KVR trail with Sickle Point?” to which few raised hands in favour.
“Are you in favour of trying to buy back Sickle Point?” which again saw a majority of hands raised in affirmation.
RDOS Community Services Manager Mark Woods, who arrived later in the meeting, told residents that a License of Occupation for the regional district for the trail north of Okanagan Falls to Kaleden’s Banbury Point was nearly complete.
It was observed in closing remarks by MLA Slater that “people are willing to reach into their own pockets,” to resolve some of the trail issues.
“Congratulations to all of you for coming out tonight,” said Siddon. “It indicates a sign of concern in the community for this issue.”
Hope was expressed that another meeting would be called by September this time with double the number of residents coming out.