Making Tracks

The 116-kilometre Trail of Coeur d'Alenes in Idaho is touted as one of the most spectacular rail trails in the western U.S. It was named one of the 25 top trails in the nation in 2012 by the Rails to Trails Conservancy. A group of seven Okanagan cyclists thought the section east of Harrison, above, was the most spectacular with lakes and huge marshes often on both sides.

If there was an over-riding theme to the Making Tracks columns for the summer of 2018, it was the overwhelming success of the new 49-kilometre Okanagan Rail Trail.

The emerging theme of 2019 is rail trails in general, from the growing popularity of the Okanagan Rail Trail to plans for a paved 50-kilometre rail trail from Armstrong to Sicamous to efforts to create a continuous trail from Osoyoos to Peachland.

The Sheriff has heard numerous accolades from Okanagan cyclists for the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes in Idaho. So our group of seven Okanagan cyclists included it in a week-long rail trail holiday June 2-9.

We first headed to Republic, Wash., and cycled east 20 kilometres on the paved Golden Tiger Multi-use Pathway which turns into the gravel Ferry County Rail Trail. BTW, Golden Tigers is a championship local high school basketball team.

Then we headed over to Idaho to camp at Bell Bay State Park near the western end of the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes. On the first day, we drove the short distance to the small village of Harrison and cycled 46 kilometres east on a paved trail alongside and between numerous lakes and marshes filled with a huge array of wildlife from herons to white pelicans to turtles. As the Sheriff headed back solo, he came across a cow moose and two calves standing on the pavement while eating vegetation on either side. They showed no inclination to flee so the Sheriff stayed well back and took dozens of photos during the next 20 minutes. Momma kept her eye on the Sheriff and the curious twins.

On the second day, we cycled west on the trail along the Coeur d’Alene lake shoreline to an unusual stepped-pavement bridge across the lake and through the forest 25 kilometres to the town of Plummer. It was all uphill, but an exhilarating ride back downhill despite spitting rain.

We drove to Wallace with plans to cycle the 24-kilometre Route of the Hiawatha, touted as the crown jewel of rail-to-trail adventures, with its 10 tunnels and seven trestles. Unfortunately, it was pouring rain, the temperature in the Lookout Pass was 6 C, snow was in the forecast and participants in a convention had booked all the spots on shuttle buses. So we resolved to come back at some point in the future.

Heading back to Canada, we camped at the Schulli Resort on the shoreline of Christina Lake and biked both ways on the Trans Canada Trail. Coincidentally on one of the trestles in the middle of nowhere, we met Rich Worthington of Kelowna who had organized a biking-hiking-kayaking outing with a group of friends.

See more about these cycling adventures on today’s Travel page, B8.

*****

Back in the Okanagan on Wednesday, we joined a Meetup group on Vancouver Avenue in Penticton, cycled over to Vancouver Place and headed up the Trans Canada Trail, the former Kettle Valley Railway, to Naramata and uphill even more to the Little Tunnel.

We met Ellen Woodd from the Trail of the Okanagans Society and an 86-year-old retired doctor who recently emailed the Sheriff expressing concern he couldn’t use his e-bike in Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park. And who should walk up but former Kelowna city councillor Tom Treadgold, who is also concerned about the e-bike ban.

This trail had new sand and gravel laid down in recent years, is in great shape and it was busy despite the fact it was mid-week.

A Kelowna cyclist we met had biked south from McCulloch Lake. The section from June Springs Road to Chute Lake is in deplorable condition, he said, since cars, trucks and in particular, ATVs, have ripped up this motorized portion of the Trans Canada Trail. His description: “a national disgrace.”

*****

Construction has started on a new accessible trail in Mission Creek Regional Park in Kelowna.

The trail is thanks to a $50,000 grant from the federal government’s Enabling Accessibility Fund which helps eliminate barriers and gain better access to facilities for thousands of challenged Canadians.

The new 600-metre paved trail will improve access to the park for visitors with mobility or age-related challenges.The $130,000 project will see new thermoplastic crosswalks installed from the Durnin Road transit stop allowing visually-impaired visitors improved access to the park. As well, new crib stairs will improve access to the Environmental Education Centre for the Okanagan. Three new accessible picnic tables will be installed at locations along the smooth asphalt trail.

The Regional District of Central Okanagan is contributing $80,000 towards the improvements to the park and the trail project which should be complete by the end of July.

Construction of the trail and other amenities will take place in stages resulting some closures.

*****

A new trail connecting Okanagan College’s Vernon campus and the Okanagan Rail Trail has officially opened.

The Kal Crystal Waters Trail gives pedestrians and cyclists another route linking Coldstream to Lake Country and was approved by the Greater Vernon advisory committee in 2013, one year before the Okanagan Rail Trail was initiated. Construction was completed earlier this year.

For area B director Bob Fleming, the trail is more than just a recreation corridor.

“I was inspired to build this trail to give people an option to avoid biking on the highway. I personally know people who, sadly, have been struck by vehicles on the highway while biking, and I think it’s important to offer safer ways to travel,” said Fleming. “The view from Kal Crystal Waters and the ambiance of the trail are distinctive but complementary to the Okanagan Rail Trail. Together, they create a fantastic way to experience Kalamalka Lake and nature in the North Okanagan.”

“Regional District of North Okanagan parks staff have worked hard to secure the necessary permits from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and have worked with private landowners to provide the necessary lands for the trail corridor. We appreciate their dedication and time spent on this wonderful community asset,” said Akbal Mund, chair of the Greater Vernon advisory committee.

*****

BC Parks has elaborated on its policy prohibiting the use of e-bikes in Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park.

“Currently, e-bikes are considered motorized use and are restricted to park roads or in permitted areas only,” says BC Parks.

When asked if there are any other provincial parks in the Okanagan with similar bans, BC Parks responded: “Generally motorized use by the public is not permitted in parks except for on a park road or … for example, a designated snowmobiling area within a park.”

BC Parks is reviewing its policy on bicycles, e-bikes and motorized uses.

Although BC Parks once indicated “exceptions may be made for individuals with accessibility issues upon request,” if an activity is prohibited in a park, “the prohibition applies to everyone,” said BC Parks.

“In the past, only a few exemptions for e-bike use on trails were made in Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park. However, no further exemptions will be considered until BC Parks finishes reviewing the policy on a provincial level.”.

“While the policy is under review, e-bicycles are still allowed on park roads and on mixed-use trails (trails where motorized and non-motorized use is permitted together).”

The fine for violating the policy could be up to $575.

The Sheriff recently received an email from an 86-year-old man with a lame right leg who likes to bike but needs the help of an electric-assist bike. “I would be unable to ride there without the assist of electricity,” he said.

J.P. Squire, aka the Hiking, Biking, Kayaking and Horseback Riding Sheriff, is a retired reporter. Email: jp.squire@telus.net