Penticton received two major grants Wednesday to improve walking trails in the area, with the announcement of more than $600,000 in grants from the provincial government.
MLA Bill Barisoff made two separate announcements, dedicating $496,155 to the Regional District of the Okanagan Similkameen 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 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.
Oliver and Osoyoos will also strap on their walking shoes in due time after receiving more than $350,000 for trail programs from the provincial government.
Osoyoos was awarded $232,000 and Oliver will receive $152,000 to help fund projects pertaining to walkways and trails in the respective communities.
“Small rural towns in B.C. have such a hard time accumulating funding for this type of project. We have had this project on our ‘want list’ many times, but the large expenditure would have depleted this account and the project was usually deferred,” Osoyoos Mayor Stu Wells said. “This grant allows us to undertake the project and safely provide the connectivity between the golf course subdivision and the town.”
The grant in Osoyoos will go toward building a public walkway along Pebble Beach Drive from Golf Course Road to 115th Street, where it will continue from Pebble Beach Drive to 62nd Avenue. The project will consist of a two-metre wide concrete sidewalk with curb and gutter along Pebble Beach Drive and three-metre wide paved walkway along 115th Street.
In Oliver, the funds will go toward formalizing the Eastside Hike and Bike Trail — 1.3 km of paved trail three metres in width designed to link up to the existing bridge walkway crossings over the Okanagan River at Lion’s Park.
“The hike and bike pathway is actively used and this new section will bring a paved surface to both sides of the Okanagan River. The improvements will be enjoyed for years to come by the entire community,” Oliver Mayor Ron Hovanes said.
The project calls for clearing, compaction, preparation of subgrade, placing and compacting gravels and installing hot mix asphaltic concrete. Up to three greenway widenings will be included, affording users rest areas.