What started with a serious lobby effort from a group called the Okanagan Rail Trail Initiative, the potential acquisition of the CN Rail corridor between Kelowna and Coldstream and including 16 kilometres running through Lake Country, was nearing a reality as 2014 went into the books.
A group headed by Kelowna and including Lake Country and the North Okanagan Regional District agreed to purchase the line from CN Rail for $22 million dollars with the deal subject to the group coming up with the money.
The financial deal hinges on Lake Country with the district going to the Alternative Approval Process (AAP) to get approval to raise taxes by under two per cent and borrow half of its $5 million share of the project. The other half will come in the form of a loan from the City of Kelowna.
The project was trumpetted as a win, win by all sides involved in the negotiations as the potential for a trail or transportation corridor linking Kelowna, Lake Country and Vernon.
It almost seemed too good to be true. And it was. As Lake Country moved to the controversial AAP, the Okanagan Indian Band came forward with its opposition to the deal, stating the land CN was attempting to sell was not theres to do so.
The OKIB claimed CN was rightfully supposed to return to the land to the native band when it was no longer used for a rail line in a land claim dating back to the late 1800’s when the government first gave the land along Kalamalka Lake to the OKIB before taking it back a few years later.
OKIB chief Bryon Louis told the municipalities to beware of what they are buying and urged the provincial government to re-enter negotiations on the unsettled claim while early in the new year, Lake Country residents will have the chance to voice opposition through the AAP.