Last year, Bill Bennett took a vacation with his wife in the Okanagan and walked a portion of the Kettle Valley Railway Trail.
But at the time, the B.C. minister for community, sport and cultural development didn’t realize he would be back in less than a year, celebrating the reopening of the trail after a provincial grant made it possible to upgrade a section of the popular trail. Coupled with a $35,000 investment from the City of Penticton, provincial funding of $138,694 made it possible to complete a 5.5-kilometre section of the trail, from Vancouver Place to Sutherland Road, and connect it to a section of trail upgraded last year.
“We actually walked this section of the trail,” said Bennett, adding that the grant was more than an investment in a portion of the trail. “It’s part of the government’s attempt to accomplish a couple of things … to get people outdoors and getting some exercise, working on their physical fitness and hopefully having an effect on their health and on their need to draw from the provincial health system.”
The project scope included levelling the trail undulations and upgrading the existing gravel surface to a smoother, more durable surface of recycled asphalt, which significantly enhances accessibility for people with wheelchairs, mobility aids and strollers. The textured surface was also designed to minimize the risk of slip-related injuries, making the trail a more attractive recreation option for people of all ages.
“The Kettle Valley Rail Trail is a much-loved community resource and national treasure,” said Penticton MLA Bill Barisoff. “With the support from this provincial grant, we’ve made improvements to the trail, providing our residents with an ideal destination for physical activity and making our community a healthier place to live.”
Coun. Helena Konanz got on her bike to attend the ceremonial opening, riding up from City Hall to where the trail crosses Naramata Road. The upgrade, she said, has increased the accessibility of the trail. “I used to ride up there with my children. We would have to stop at Naramata Road, because we couldn’t get over the sandy part,” she said. “We would plan to ride up to that point, then return.”
The KVR Trail has successfully transformed a historically significant rail corridor, giving it new life as a connection between communities in the Okanagan Valley. Penticton is a gateway community to the trail, functioning as an important hub where users can access three different directions of the trail.
“When you look at the KVR from Penticton all the way to Chute Lake, this just enhances the ability to make it go from one end to the other,” said Barisoff. “Up ahead, they were going over big rocks and loose sand, so it was tough to ride your bike or even walk.”
Mayor Dan Ashton agreed the trail is a phenomenal asset to the city, and that the upgrade couldn’t have been completed without the aid of the province.
“The KVR Trail is one of the best-known trails in the province, and this project has made it even easier and safer to enjoy,” said Ashton. “Residents and visitors alike will enjoy our enhanced trail for years to come.”