The Similkameen Trail Society’s planned expansion of the trail between Keremeos and Cawston has been put on hold while the province redirects the money to the timber industry.
The society, together with the Regional District of the Okanagan Similkameen, applied to the Rural Dividend Program for a grant to cover the costs of expanding the trail across the existing railbed between and Cawston. However, after the series of issues that arose with the forestry sector this year, including mill closures and stumpage costs, the province froze their application and others.
“They suspended all the grant applications, and took the money that was allocated for the province, and put it towards relief for the forestry sector, so nobody got grants this year,” said Eileen Oliver-Bauer, one of the trail society organizers. “We’re hoping that next year that we wouldn’t have to reapply, that they would unsuspend the applications, but we don’t know.”
The trail society is working to expand and improve the trail network in Keremeos and the surrounding RDOS areas in the Similkameen, with the eventual goal being to have a fully connected network that is well-used by the community.
“Over the last number of years, the trail society has done projects like putting in benches along the trail,” said Oliver-Bauer. “Putting in solar lights, with a grant from Fortis, to demarcate the trail in Keremeos. But there’s much left to be done.”
One of the society’s next planned projects was to begin opening up and resurfacing the former railway that goes through Keremeos and down to Cawston. The trail society, together with the RDOS has been working on the trail in the other direction towards Hedley, towards the iconic Red Bridge.
“It’s a good trail. On a mountain bike, it’s rideable. It’s walkable,” said Jennifer Roe, another organizer from the trail society. “It’s wide, it has benches. It’s a bit rocky, but it’s good.”
The trail heading to Cawston has made some progress, going from the Village of Keremeos out to Becks Road, and from there to up to the railbed alongside the Crowsnest Highway. The Director of Area B of the RDOS, George Bush put in $70,000 for the project, which is still sitting and waiting for the rest of the money from the province.
After the grant is approved, if it is, the trail still faces additional hurdles. The next section faces encroachment from property owners along the railbed.
The railbed will have to be cleared, then filled and resurfaced before it can be made useable, with some of the area having been used for materials over time by neighbouring residents.
“We want to appeal the spirits of the people who border the trail that’s getting encroached,” said Roe. “The corridor that the RDOS has is 99 feet, but for the purposes of the trail all that’s used is nine feet.”
The trail society encourages the use of the trails for exercise, the environment, and to provide a safe route for children and seasonal farmworkers to travel from Keremeos to Cawston.
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