The owner of a section of former Kettle Valley Railway land in Kaleden is threatening to restrict access -thereby breaking continuity to the trail between unless a property exchange deal can be reached with the province.
A former railway siding, the parcel of land was sold to a private company (0893178 BC Ltd.) last December.
In a story that appeared in the December edition of Skaha Matters, a local newsletter, it was stated that company director Debbie McGinn had been trying to work with the province to keep the trail open in perpetuity through a property exchange agreement. Provincial officials have indicated that such a deal would be very difficult and take a long time to do.
“We want to work with the province so that everyone can enjoy the trail, but allowing continued public use comes with a financial risk we can no longer accept. It will be with great regret that we shut that section of the trail down,” McGinn was quoted.
When the CPR abandoned the southern subdivision of the Kettle Valley Railway in the Okanagan in the early 1990’s, the corporation retained two select sections of the line through Kaleden.
In the intervening years, CPR slowly divested itself of the lands retained. These included a portion of the line south of Pioneer Park to Ponderosa Point, and the section paralleling Alder Avenue, which was once designated as a railway siding.
In acquiring the rest of the right of way for use as a recreational corridor, the province believed that existing roads could be used in these areas, so did not pursue their purchase.
The province originally negotiated two 25 foot easements at the north and south ends of the siding property to allow trail access to Alder Avenue. This action was done at the time of abandonment, however those agreements were never registered before the property changed hands last year. At a regional district meeting that took place in September of 2008, the province queried the Regional District to find out what might be considered in terms of a “development approval” that might guarantee a recreational corridor, noting then that registering the easement agreements was a priority before the property changed hands.
Board discussion revealed that it was their wish to encourage the preservation of the CPR right of way as much as possible. Directors commented that they would rather see the trail stay on the right of way as opposed to detouring along local roads. They expressed an interest in protecting agricultural viability along the trail as well.
McGinn feels a precedent for a property exchange was set when an agreement was made for trail access through Ponderosa Point Resort in Kaleden’s south end, but over the past year has been unable to reach an agreement with the province.
“There’s not much I can say right now,” said John Hawkings, Provincial Trails Manager. “This matter is somewhat related to a subdivision application before the province. We are not pursuing the land exchange issue until the subdivision process is complete.
Our goal is to maintain trail access.”
Hawkings was asked if it would be possible for the province to indemnify the landowners against liability from trail users. He replied that it was possible, but an access agreement had to be in place first.
“We are in the early stages of resolving this matter,” Hawkings said. “There are many opportunities for us to consider – there is no need to panic yet.”