The South Okanagan received two major grants today to improve walking trails in the area, with the announcement of more than $600,000 in grants from the provincial government.
MP Bill Barisoff made two separate announcements, dedicating $496,155 to the Regional District of the South Okanagan to develop a pedestrian corridor in the West Bench area and another $138,694 for Penticton to upgrade a section of the Kettle Valley Rail Trail from Sutherland Road to Vancouver Place.
“This is a big moment for us. This is a piece of property and trail system that is imperative to our continued push toward greater tourism and a change in tourism here in the city,” said Mayor Dan Ashton.
Both grants come from through the Community Recreation program developed by the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development. Barisoff stresses the health benefits associated with improving walking trails in the city.
“For most people, particularly in the South Okanagan, the walking trails and the bike trails are something that not only enhance the area but also give a benefit for the people that get the exercise out of it,” said Barisoff. “Kettle Valley Trail is popular with people of all ages and ability, from kids to serious cyclists. These improvements will serve to make it even more accessible, even for people in wheelchairs.”
Penticton is considered a gateway city for the KVR trail system, a hub where users can access three different directions of the KVR trail. The city is responsible for maintaining the portions of the trail within city limits and the $138,000 grant will be used to upgrade a 5.5 kilometre section of gravel trail to a more durable surface made from recycled asphalt.
This improvement will enhance accessibility for people with wheelchairs, mobility aids or strollers and help minimize the risk of slip-related injuries, previously seen as a result of the gravel base, making the trail a more attractive recreation option to people of all ages.
Ashton said it will make the trail more accessible for everyone.
“Especially in a town like Penticton that has a substantial amount of people that are in those golden years and have a little more time on their hands. The utilization of these trails is phenomenal,” he said.
The second, larger, grant will be used to develop a pedestrian corridor, which will create more connectivity for residents of the West Bench, Husula Highlands and Penticton Indian Band.
Currently, no pedestrian corridor exists to connect residents to the elementary school, community parks, linear Kettle Valley Rail corridor and the city of Penticton.
“Upgrading the corridor will not only allow greater access between neighbouring communities, but permit a wider range of users to move around on foot, including school children, young families, and retirees,” said Barisoff.
“Promoting healthy living through the encouragement of more walking and cycling for daily travel requires the provision of safe, convenient and attractive infrastructure, such as this pedestrian corridor,” said Ashton, speaking as chair of the RDOS, which will own the completed project.
Implementing the new pedestrian corridor includes installing retaining walls, asphalt paving and curbing, signage and traffic controls.