Two Summerland trail groups join forces

Two Summerland trail groups, the Trans Canada Trail Society and the Trail of the Okanagans, are amalgamating.

Henry Sielmann cycles a portion of the Summerland Fur Brigade Linear Park near Garnett Lake.

Two Summerland trail groups, the Trans Canada Trail Society and the Trail of the Okanagans, are amalgamating.

Henry Sielmann, who serves as president of both organizations, said while the two groups have been working with rail trails, the Trans Canada Trail Society has been part of a national east-west route while the Trail of the Okanagans has been working on a north-south route in the region.

Sielmann said the Summerland Trans Canada Trail Society was established in 1999 to maintain a 40-kilometre section of the trail between Summerland and Osprey Lake.

The society’s mandate came to an end two years ago, after the province signed a trail maintenance agreement with the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen.

At that time, the Trans Canada Trail was designated as a trail which would accommodate motorized off-road vehicles as well as hikers, cyclists and equestrians. The local group had consistently opposed allowing motorized vehicles on the trail.

“We weren’t interested in maintaining a trail that would be chewed up by quads and ATVs,” Sielmann said.

While the mandate of the Trans Canada Trail Society had been changing, the Trail of the Okanagans Society has been working to advocate for a 250-kilometre recreational pathway between Osoyoos and Sicamous.

At present the focus of the Trail of the Okanagans is to connect Summerland with Penticton and Peachland.

As part of the merger, two directors from the Trans Canada Trail Society will serve on the Trail of the Okanagans board of directors.

“I think it’s a very beneficial evolution,” Sielmann said.

Sielmann said the Fur Brigade Trail, connecting the Garnett Valley area in Summerland with Peachland, needs to be developed.

The Trail of the Okanagans has a strong presence on Facebook, with around 800 followers. At present, it includes a steering group with 16 members.

The Trans Canada Trail Society, at its peak, had 60 members, although by the time of the merger, that number had dropped to 30 members.

“I’m very confident that I’ll be able to cycle from Osoyoos to Sicamous,” Sielmann said, but added that it will take five to 10 years to develop the trail.

In some areas along the proposed route, the land has not yet been acquired.

For the past three years, the Trans Canada Trail Society has been working on enhancing facilities along the trail between Summerland and Faulder.

These enhancements include improved railway crossings and trail etiquette signs.

Historical signage, benches and an outhouse near the gazebo have been set up along the trail near Conkle Mountain. The trail access at Fenwick Road has been improved.

A plant display at the trail kiosk near the badminton hall is expected to be completed in spring.

The Trail of the Okanagans Society will continue to work with the municipality and the Regional District of Central Okanagan to redevelop the Fur Brigade Trail between Summerland and Peachland.

Bike lanes will be added during the repaving of Garnett Valley Road and the planned improvement of the 3.2-kilometre trail between the Fur Brigade Linear Park and Hardy Falls.

Both trail groups have provided input to the engineering study for the planned bike lane along Highway 97 to Penticton.