Trail Advocates meet to discuss linking Trails across the Canada / US Border
The idea of connecting trail advocates on both sides of the border was born out of an observation made at the recent International Indigenous Tourism Conference in Kelowna. Arnie Marchand, First Nations Leader from Oroville, Washington stated “One of the things I noticed at the conference in Kelowna, that the people in the Okanogan down there and the people in the Okanagan here are doing the same work, they don’t even know each other. *
So I wanted to set up a face to face meeting to bring people together. So we can start communicating.” The result was a meeting held in Osoyoos on December 19th that was attended by 13 Trail advocacy groups and communities from both BC and Washington.
“There are several advantages to linking the hiking/cycling trails in the South Okanagan to those in Washington” says Trail of the Okanagans Society representative Don Gemmell. “The proposed trail is in much demand. Last year the Okanagan Rail Trail alone exceeded expectations when it blew through predictions by over 5 times in its first year of operations with almost 500,000 visits.” This mirrors experiences and trends elsewhere in the world where unused rail beds are being converted to recreational trails. The advantages to linking trails across the international border include:
- Attracting greater number of tourists to the Okanagan and Washington – particularly from Europe where cycle touring is big business. Cycle enthusiasts are looking for new destinations with great weather, amenities, history, culture, views and lengthy accessible trails, which we have in abundance.
- The trails are steeped in First Nations history. Much of the route follows thousand year old trails built by First Nations that spanned their territories. Long before the border, these trails linked their communities – this is an effort to reconnect in a tangible way.
- Provides the obvious benefits to health and wellness through active transportation and commuting – and – is environmentally sustainable.
- The economic benefits are substantive as evidenced elsewhere in North America and Europe where long distance trails have been developed. Small communities in particular will benefit as new businesses are built to support trail users.
The discussion at the meeting focussed on sharing information on current projects and the economic and tourism potential and benefits of linking trail networks of the South Okanagan, the Boundary region, and Washington State. Specific suggestions were made for loop tours on linking trails across the border with an emphasis on First Nations partners and Indigenous history and experiences along the routes. Commitments were made to continue to meet and to share information with the next meeting to be held in February.
“We hope this initiative shows Okanagan communities the potential of the Trail and that they in turn help by focusing on gaps in the Trail” says Janice Liebe, director with the Trail of the Okanagans Society. “We are very close to having a fully connected trail north of Kelowna all the way to Sicamous. South of the Bennett Bridge there are approximately thirty smaller sections and some challenges due to terrain. But there is a solution and a proposed route. All it needs is more active help by all levels of government and volunteer groups to help stitch the final stretches together. ”
For further information, please contact 778-392-6536 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Trail of the Okanagans Society
* So not true Arnie – Arnie and I met on a joint committee of US and Canadian supporters of the Hwy 97 travel route many moons ago. Arnie old buddy so good to hear your “drum”d beat …..anytime………