2022 ends today so it is appropriate to look back at the year of outdoor adventures and list a few of its many highlights.
It was another spring, summer, and fall of fabulous e-biking throughout the Okanagan Valley, especially new routes we discovered in rural areas of Oliver, Osoyoos, Summerland, East Kelowna, Ellison, and Armstrong. There is a wealth of scenic country roads for those seeking quiet solitude. Thank you to Jim and Jerry aka the J&J Cycle Gang.
Even though we had wonderful vacations in the Shuswap, Alberta, Kootenays, and the American Southwest, they solidified our sentiment that we really have something special in our four-seasons playground and we live here year-round. Exactly as advertised.
The winter part of that four-season-playground promise will long be remembered for the huge Nov. 4 snowstorm which prompted Okanagan downhill resorts and cross-country ski areas to open weeks ahead of schedule. For some, it was the earliest opening in decades.
It was also a year of transformation as the Myra Canyon Trestle Restoration Society officially folded and was folded into the Friends of the South Slopes. The society tried and failed to attract new and younger members to carry on from its aging seniors. They toiled for decades to maintain and upgrade what the Sheriff says is the best combination of natural beauty (a deep canyon) and man-made marvel, the former Kettle Valley Railway with its 16 wood trestles, two steel spans and two rock tunnels. Stupendous.
Friends of the South Slopes would take the top award any year for outstanding volunteer outdoor organization. Its equivalent in the Southern Interior is the Shuwap Trail Alliance which has transformed the region around Shuswap Lake into a world-class destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
At the beginning of August, the First Nation of Splatsin, based in Enderby, prematurely released information that the federal government had approved a $12.5-million grant to build 42.6 kilometres of the proposed 50-kilometre Shuswap North Okanagan Rail Trail between Armstrong and Sicamous.
The band had applied for a Infrastructure Canada Active Transportation Grant earlier in the year. The announcement hasn’t happened yet. However, if approved, that would leave only a 7.4-kilometre section near Armstrong to be funded, likely through other grant applications and fundraising. A two-kilometre test section was scheduled for construction last summer but was put on hold pending the expected announcement.
Plans for the project include: conducting archeological impact assessments, trail clearing, site preparation and construction with a gravel-based surface, parking areas, fencing and shoreline protection as well as signage and drainage improvements.
While still waiting for the official announcement, "we were able to make a soft announcement at the community fundraiser for the rail trail last month," said STA senior consultant Phil McIntyre-Paul.
"Exciting news is pending regarding new grant funding that leverages all the local fundraising and provincial grants to-date effectively building the rail trail to kilometre 42.6 and leaving just 7.4 kilometres to raise capital funding for. Tender packages are currently being developed by the Rail Trail partners (Splatsin, CSRD, RDNO) for work to begin in 2023!"
The rail trail capital campaign has now evolved from ‘Let’s Build the Trail’ into ‘Let’s Finish the Trail’ mode, he said, with the focus on inviting everyone to buy a metre of trail through the Shuswap Community Foundation to leverage further grant applications for the final 7.4 kilometres of trail which includes the Highway 97A pedestrian overpass.
One metre of hard-packed aggregate trail surface costs about $160, and with 50,000 metres to build, the fund-raising goal is $8 million (depending on the federal grant). A donation for one metre at: shuswapnorthokanaganrailtrail.ca/donate comes with a customizable Rail Trail supporter certificate. For more information: shuswapnorthokanaganrailtrail.ca
"On the wider Shuswap Trails side of things, lots of other exciting trail projects took place throughout the Shuswap, including the opening of the new Ida View Trail in Salmon Arm, unveiling of the first Secwepemc Landmark and installation of many new Secwepemc Coyote trailhead posts, rehabilitation to the historic Owlhead/Mara Lookout alpine hiking trail above Sicamous, new upgrades to the Skimikin Lake trail system, and Larch Hills Nordic Society completing their trail lighting project," said McIntyre-Paul.
And then, there is the Trail of the Okanagans (trailoftheokanagans.com).
Its dream is a 370-kilometre hiking and cycling trail from Sicamous in the north to Brewster, Wash. in the south spanning the length of the Okanagan Valley lake and river system. The route traces traditional trading routes of the Okanagan First Nations, skirts lake edges, wanders through forests and hillsides, borders vineyards, fruit orchards, witnesses unique landscapes and connects all of the valley communities.
Its current focus is the missing sections between the Bennett Bridge and Osoyoos. Although currently fragmented, a linear hiking and biking pathway in large part already exists. Approximately 75 per cent of the route is cyclable now, and one-third of that is suitable for all ages and all abilities.
The website identifies five gaps with a detailed trail description, directions and the society’s actions on each the first gap, for example, is Kalamoir Regional Park.
The society has lobbied for completion of a cycle path as a priority. The Drought Hill section would link Goats Peak Regional Park to the Peachland lakeside trail with the hope of construction in 2023.
In 2020, the society installed trail markers along the northern half of the Fur Brigade Trail from Hardy Falls in Peachland to the viewpoint. In the fall of 2021, trail markers were added from the viewpoint to Priests Camp at the south end.
The trail from Summerland to Penticton follows the former KVR right-of-way but part of it is in the Penticton First Nation reserve.
J.P. Squire, aka the Ski Sheriff, is a retired journalist. Email: email@example.com