What a difference a year can make!
Fourteen months ago the Trail of the Okanagans bike path advocacy group was formed to promote the plan for a world-class regional biking network. With seed funding and the initial vision provided by the Summerland Rotary Club, the group quickly gained traction and tourism organizations, local businesses, politicians, regional economic development professionals, the RDOS and various government departments, as well as interested members of the public came on board to support this cause.
This long term vision builds on existing infrastructure to create a regional bike path will allow cyclists to travel from Osoyoos all the way to Sicamous on connected trails, many of which are already in place. Two key gaps in the pathway are in Summerland – the stretches adjacent to Hwy 97 along Okanagan Lake between Lower Town and Illahie Beach and between Sun-Oka Park and Penticton.
The Trail of the Okanagans, working with the District of Summerland, achieved a major advocacy milestone in July, when the funding to close the first of these gaps was announced. Our own MLA, Dan Ashton, who was instrumental in making this happen, along with Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, Todd Stone, and Mayor Janice Perrino, were in Summerland on July 3, to announce a contribution of $420,000 to be combined with an additional $80,000 from the District of Summerland to complete the pathway between Lower Town and Illahie Beach. The Ministry of Transportation has already proposed design plans and work will commence in spring.
Two complementary initiatives are also moving along. Currently, utilizing a BC Healthy Communities grant we are working with Penticton to develop a survey that will identify the public’s bike habits as well as barriers to doing more biking and what you’d like to see improved. This survey will be available shortly and will be posted on the District’s and the Chamber’s website and facebook pages. Please make sure you are following these sites so you can participate. We need your feedback.
Throughout the region our local Visitor Centres have daily requests for information about biking and hiking trails. The RDOS has excellent mapping resources and we are working with our South Okanagan tourism partners to present these maps in a way that is the most user-friendly. These resources will be available by autumn both in print and online.
Step by step, these initiatives are going forward and are being supported because of the tremendous opportunity to impact our regional economy. The development of this world class resource will create new business opportunities and support many existing businesses by dramatically extending our tourism season.
This article was published in the Summerland Review, August 14, 2014
Christine Petkau is the Manager of the Summerland Chamber of Commerce.