Majority of Okanagan Rail Trail officially opens, but portion still not ready

Click to play video 'Grand opening held for Okanagan Rail Trail but project faces more hurdles' Grand opening held for Okanagan Rail Trail but project faces more hurdles
Watch Above: Thursday was the official opening day for the Okanagan Rail Trail, but even though it’s now open to the public, don't count on biking from one end to the other any time soon. Megan Turcato explains.

It was a ribbon cutting years in the making. On Thursday, dignitaries and a large crowd gathered in Lake Country to officially open the Okanagan Rail Trail.

However, the project faces more hurdles before the full pathway can be completed.

The multi-million dollar project transformed the majority of the former rail line between Coldstream and Kelowna into the pathway. The project wouldn’t have been possible without thousands of individual donations.

READ MORE: Dogs must be leashed on Okanagan Rail Trail: Regional District

“It feels wonderful. The community came together in a big way and made this happen really quickly,” said Duane Thomson of the Okanagan Rail Trail Initiative, the organization that spearheaded fundraising.

However, don’t count on riding your bike all the way from Kelowna to Coldstream just yet.

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“There is still the six kilometers that are through Okanagan [Indian] Band land and through Agricultural Reserve Land that need some more approvals from the province and from the federal governments, so that part isn’t open,” explained Lake Country mayor James Baker.
Watch Below: A look back at Global Okanagan coverage of the rail trail’s progress and controversies. The project has been years in the making.

Last week, the Agricultural Land Commission rejected plans for one part of the trail, citing concerns ranging from trespassing on farm land to equipment theft to public safety.

However, local officials spearheading the path say these issues aren’t unique along the rail trail and can be mitigated with things like better fencing. They hope to come to an agreement that would allow the trail to fully open.

READ MORE: Okanagan Rail Trail goal has been met

Meanwhile, another portion is closed until it can be added to the Okanagan Indian Band reserve by the federal government.

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That’s not expected to happen until next year.

So, for now, all rail trail enthusiasts can do is keep enjoying the majority of the nearly 50 kilometer path that is ready for public use.