No longer a route?

This biking route map is no longer on the City of Kelowna's website

If you need the Sheriff to “tell you where to go,” he will (with a smile).

Central Okanagan cyclists, walkers, hikers, strollers and roller bladers have regularly used the Okanagan Rail Trail, Mission Creek Greenway and Waterfront Promenade in Kelowna, but only a few riders have put them all together in one outing.

Many years ago, the Sheriff found the accompanying overview map on the City of Kelowna website, kelowna.ca. It was apparently designed to show how many people living within one kilometre — 36,787 in 35.5 square kilometres — would use such a 20.6-kilometre trail. (When the website was upgraded and improved several years ago, it disappeared.)

It was basically a combination of the Mission Creek Greenway, Rails With Trails parallel to Clement Avenue, Abbott Street Recreation Corridor and several multi-use pathways (MUP).

The Sheriff loved the concept and nicknamed it the Grand Kelowna Triangle since it includes the Waterfront Promenade past The Grand Okanagan hotel and is indeed a ‘grand’ three-sided trail.

It’s grand for a number of reasons: it includes this city’s best trails — Greenway, rail trail and waterfront paths; beautiful homes in a heritage area (Abbott Street); one of the oldest and most popular green spaces — City Park; the newer distinctive Waterfront Park with its lagoons and surrounding big-city housing; the natural wild beauty of Rotary Marsh Park; and numerous public parks with grand beaches.

However, the route of the Sheriff’s Grand Kelowna Triangle is different than the map’s.

In the Mission, the Greenway which ends at Lakeshore Road (new parking lot) now connects to the Lakeshore Road Multi-Use Pathway so you don’t have to use Gordon Drive (bottom of map).

In the North End, the rail trail parallel to Clement Avenue is still called Rails With Trails phase 1 and 2. It was built by the city when trains were still using the original rail bed. (The city is considering changing its signs to Okanagan Rail Trail.)

The separate 49-kilometre Okanagan Rail Trail was purchased on June 1, 2015 for $22 million by the local governments between Kelowna and Coldstream.

The ORT Initiative then raised $7.8 million to build it. That included the newest ORT section in Kelowna’s North End, paved last fall, to connect Gordon Drive to Manhattan Drive (parallel to Weddell Place and then along Recreation Avenue).

A wide gravel-and-dirt path through Sunset Drive Park takes you to Rotary Marsh Park and to Waterfront Park.

The 2012 map has the wonderful Cawston Avenue MUP in the North End, but you miss the best waterfront marsh in the city, a great place to stop to view an elevated osprey nest and waterfowl in the marsh.

Two areas of caution:

— Leaving the Lakeshore Road MUP, you wind through back streets to connect to Abbott Street Recreation Corridor (via Watt Road and Walnut Street) where there are no signs indicating the correct route.

— The connection between the Okanagan Rail Trail and Greenway is via ultra-busy Dilworth Drive and Springfield Road to Mission Creek Regional Park. Both streets have bike paths but watch for vehicles making right turns (a friend was hit), use pedestrian-activated buttons and even walk your bike across intersections like a pedestrian.

One final note: the Grand Kelowna Triangle route can be busy on weekends. Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran has threatened to close the Waterfront Promenade and Knox Mountain Park if the public doesn’t practise social distancing. (The Apex Trail is already one-way uphill and Knox Mountain Drive one-way downhill to stop too-close walking.)

In the coming weeks, the Sheriff plans similar Okanagan trail outlines on other popular walking, hiking, jogging and cycling routes. Stay tuned.

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If all goes to plan, erosion mitigation work on the Okanagan Rail Trail between Kekuli Bay and Coldstream should be complete next week, says Ashley Gregerson, communications officer for the Regional District of North Okanagan.

“We are strongly encouraging people not to drive to the trail, but instead to walk or cycle and maintain social/physical distancing. Like all other weekends throughout the works, the trail will be open for the long weekend, but we have some clean-up happening next week.”

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Parks staff with the Regional District of Central Okanagan is offering a nature series on Instagram Live.

“Our programming for next week’s Instagram Live RDCO Parks @regionalparks is posted at rdco.com/parksevents,” said Bruce Smith, RDCO communications officer.

— Tuesday: StoryTime – Mud and Seeds. Explore mud, dirt and green buds a little closer.

— Wednesday: Bears Emerging, staff will share information about bears as they emerge from hibernation;

— Thursday: Dabblers and Divers; dive into the world of sucks of the Okanagan;

— Friday: Evergreen ID; join a virtual walk and learn to identify the characteristics of evergreens;

— Saturday, April 18: Owl Pellet Dissection; discover what’s inside an owl pellet and how to spot owls in regional parks.

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As the result of an online election, the 2020 board of Friends of Black Mountain Regional Park will consist of: Jean-Claude Gavrel, president; Glen Wood, vice-president and treasurer; Carol Millar, secretary; and Don Wilson, director.

“Ian Pooley decided to retire from the board after leading FOBM through an incredible period of activities and achievements for the past three years and to re-orient his energies towards a unique research opportunity at UBC Okanagan,” said Gavrel.

“We have followed the lead of health authorities and the RDCO, and for now, all group activities have been cancelled indefinitely. Individually, a number of us will continue to frequent the park, monitoring bluebird nesting, etc. We are currently in conversations with RDCO Parks to determine when and how to restart a number of our activities in the park. But as you can imagine, handling the coronavirus pandemic is taki”

Black Mountain/Sntsk’il’nten Regional Park has not yet opened to the public.

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Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre won’t get to host the 2021 Canadian Ski Championships after the 2020 nationals scheduled for March 25-April 2 were cancelled due to COVID-19.

Possibly hosting the Nationals in 2021 was investigated but Nordiq Canada made an earlier commitment to Mont Ste. Anne to host the national cross-country ski championships next year.

The Sovereign Lake Nordic Club will host the provincial championships in 2021.

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Some parking adjustments are being made to help reduce the number of people visiting the Central Okanagan’s most popular regional park.

Until further notice, approximately 100 parking stalls will be available in Mission Creek Regional Park compared with almost 200 that are normally available.

Barricades will be put in place throughout the parking areas to decrease the number of visitors entering the park from Durnin, Leckie and Ziprick roads.

The park playground is not open and parking is not allowed along Springfield Road near the park.

Parking reductions will also be in place at the Hollywood Road south entrance to Scenic Canyon Regional Park.

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BC Parks has closed all provincial parks until further notice in response to the call for increased action to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Park closures will be enforced through regular monitoring and patrols, and anyone found in a closed park without a written exemption will be evicted and could face a $115 fine,” said Jim Standen, assistant deputy minister.

That includes cross-country ski areas like Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre in Silver Star Provincial Park (now officially closed for the season).

The province is also recommending not cycling with anyone other than immediate family members who live in the same home.

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Greater Vernon Advisory Committee has decided to keep Regional District of North Okanagan trails and natural spaces open, but also encourages residents to alternatively enjoy the parks and trails in their own neighbourhoods or those that are less popular.

“The best choice is for residents to walk, run or cycle in their own neighbourhoods,” said Akbal Mund, GVAC chair. “Instead of visiting the busiest trails, like the Okanagan Rail Trail, we encourage you to discover something new, and that is preferably in your neighbourhood.”

Large groups of people have been seen gathering at the Greater Vernon Athletic Park, despite the facility’s closure and physical distancing orders. As a result, fences and closures signage have been placed at the park to further enforce the closure.

“We all absolutely must maintain physical distancing while using our parks and trails. Our decision to keep them open to the public does not mean we are not prepared to close them if people are clearly and consistently violating these measures,” said Mund.

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While you are self-isolating at home, you may be interested in the following ideas, says Rick Gee, president of the Central Okanagan Naturalists’ Club.

“Want to start birding? Many of the birding guides can be intimidating, but there is a way to create a bird guide for your area for a specific week. You may be able to see these birds from your front window! Birds Canada (the new name for Bird Studies Canada) has this webpage, birdscanada.org/en/a-new-way-to-discover-birds-in-your-region/, which describes the project; birdscanada.org/apps/checklist/index.jsp lets you create the customized guide.” he said.

“Do you want to think about getting outdoors? The Banff Mountain Film Festival has some free films for you at: banffcentre.ca/film-fest-at-home. Of course, the CONC website contains a number on interesting resources on our Links page, okanagannature.org/information-pages/links/.”

Several new birding links were added recently, he noted.

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There is a new wrinkle in the ongoing conversion of the Columbia and Western Rail Trail into a series of logging roads.

In 2004, the 164-kilometre Columbia and Western Rail Trail between Castlegar and Midway was gifted to the province by the Trans Canada Trail organization for non-motorized use, yet Recreation Sites and Trails BC (under the Ministry of Forests) allowed motorized use to continue.

In spite of the current provincial trails strategy review which includes rail trails, John Hawkins, RSTBC director, announced on March 6 he will conduct his own Former Rail Corridor Assessment Project.

On March 12, BC Timber Sales announced it has road construction plans for another section of the Columbia and Western Rail Trail. Stakeholders, interest groups and the public that may be affected have until April 13 to give feedback at: Gavin.Fox@gov.bc.ca.

The plan is to built two forest roads that connect to the Columbia and Western Rail Trail, and to temporarily utilize the old railroad surface for logging trucks, said planning forester Gavin Fox.

“This trail was previously a railroad track. The existing trail surface condition is more akin to an industrial forest road, and not a simple woodland hiking trail. Sections of this trail have been previously utilized for industrial activities. The trail also currently accommodates passenger vehicle traffic as there are multiple existing points of entry for motor vehicles onto the trail. This trail is a multiple-use trail, and the use of motorized vehicles on the trail is currently permitted,” he said.

On July 26, 2019, Hawkins asked for feedback from stakeholders on a proposal to cancel the recreation designation for a 67-kilometre section of the Columbia and Western Rail Trail between Paulson and Fife, and turn it into an official road tenure. Stakeholders had only until until Aug. 26 for feedback. More than 650 letters and a 600-name petition opposed it. A decision is expected early this year.

On July 30, 2019, the Ministry of Forests gave Interfor permission to build a logging road on 12.5 kilometres of the Columbia and Western Rail Trail immediately east of Christina Lake. No public consultation. No stakeholder consultation. About a dozen other ministry authorizations have been provided in the past along much of the Great Trail.

A spokesperson for the Trans Canada Trail organization, recently issued the following statement.

“We continue to monitor this situation very closely and our position remains the same: we want the Columbia and Western Rail Trail to retain its recreational trail designation, and for it to provide safe and comfortable experiences for all non-motorized users. The safety of people who use the trail alongside forestry vehicles is still of significant concern to us.

“While we recognize and respect the importance of the forest industry to people living and working in rural communities in British Columbia, let’s not forget that tourism remains one of the province’s biggest sectors…

“We remain open and encouraged by any dialogue we can contribute to, and do hope that the public’s opinion on the matter will be considered.”

Louise Pedersen, executive director of the Outdoor Recreation Council of BC, did not respond to a request for comment on whether history is repeating itself. However, in a recent email, she noted the public survey website on the formal review of B.C.’s trails strategy finished with 22,000 site visits, 3,000 strategies downloaded and 4,000 survey forms submitted.

The reason for the low percentage of people completing the survey could be its overall length. Pedersen commented: “We have recognized that the survey format might seem quite restrictive for some (I have received a number of comments about this.) Most respondents spent more than 30 minutes on the survey. As a province, we clearly care about our trails!”

The PTAB, which includes seven representatives from ORC and its member organizations, will prepare recommendations for the provincial government later this year.

J.P. Squire, aka the Ski Sheriff, is a retired reporter. Email: jp.squire@telus.net