New amenities sought for trail along Penticton river channel

Local governments considering new benches, recycling bins and washrooms along walking path

Representatives from three local governments began discussing their collective vision for the Okanagan River channel trail.

Most of the details were contained in a maintenance agreement inked this summer, however, members of the Penticton Indian Band, City of Penticton and Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen met last week to talk about “maybe making the pathway a little more pleasant for the users,” said PIB administrator Greg Gabriel.

That could include the addition of benches, garbage and recycling bins, upgraded washroom facilities and improvements to the trail he explained, and would be outlined in a five-year capital plan.

“We haven’t determined yet if there’s going to be money spent on anything,” Gabriel said.

The cost of improvements would be split three ways pending approval by each local government. That deal also split three ways the annual $42,000 cost to the PIB to maintain the trail.

The maintenance deal, which runs through 2018, was opposed by some RDOS board members from outlying areas, who felt their constituents would receive little benefit from improving the trail.

Chief Jonathan Kruger expected some opposition.

“Obviously we’re not going to make everyone happy,” he said.

“We all want everybody to have a good experience going down that river channel, walking their dog, exercising, enjoying the river channel, all of that.”

PIB made the same argument this summer when its Coyote Cruises proposed a $2 environmental levy to be paid by each person who floated down the channel from its facility near Okanagan Lake. Public outcry quickly sunk the fee.

Kruger said the maintenance pact is an important “first test case” for the separate protocol agreement the PIB and two other First Nations signed with the RDOS in June.

“We’re doing great things together with this protocol and within the spirit of the protocol,” he said, citing the example of a new water line to the West Bench that’s running through PIB territory.

Mark Woods, the RDOS manager of community services, noted his board was concerned about standards of care for the trail, but said the agreement covers that issue.

“We do have some pretty specific details, which, for the most part, was the city’s standards for trail development,” he said.