A groundbreaking ceremony took place at Highway 97 and Arkell Road on the morning of July 9.
Dignitaries,community groups, individuals and press gathered for the announcement of a cycling and pedestrian pathway project in Summerland.
The project is a partnership between the Ministry of Transportation and the District of Summerland, which contributed $80,000.
The contract valued at $731,344 has been awarded to BD Hall Construction Corporation of Surrey, for the construction of a two metre-wide pathway adjacent to Highway 97 between Lakeshore Road and Thornber Street. A guardrail will also be installed.
“It’s a great day for all of us,” said MLA Dan Ashton. He explained to those in attendance that “little by little the talk of opportunities to start linking the Okanagan Valley” was starting to materialize.
“Pretty soon there are going to be links all the way through and we’ll be able to cycle the Okanagan,” he said, adding “it gives us another aspect of tourism for those shoulder seasons.”
Ashton said that a great many people have been involved in the project, naming the Rotary Club of Summerland, The Trail of the Okanagans, The District of Summerland and the province. He thanked the Project Manager, Steve Sirett and his staff from the Ministry of Transport and congratulated the company that would be doing the actual work. He said it was only by people working together for a common cause, all doing their part that a project such as this could get done.
Summerland Mayor Peter Waterman thanked the B.C.Government and MLA Dan Ashton for the bulk of the funding for the project, describing it as a very critical and important link for Summerland.
“This lakeshore trail will be a great addition to the districts trail network, linking Lower Town and the Trout Creek residential area,” he said. “It will be a beautiful and safe trail for residents and tourists alike. I am sure it is only the beginning of further links to Penticton to the south and communities to the North.”
Connie Denesiuk, representing the Trails of the Okanagan, said that this project showed how quickly things could get done when people came together and how “fantastic” it was for the South Okanagan. She explained how it was only two short years ago when cycling enthusiasts came together to build on one man’s vision of a lakeside pathway.
“I want to give Don Gemell some credit here. He deserves a lot for the initial vision,” she said. Denesiuk also thanked Ashton for his enthusiastic response to the idea when it was presented to him.
Don Gemell is a member of the Rotary Club in Summerland and his fellow Rotarian, Paul Barber told those gathered that the Rotary club takes on a local project every year. He explained that they had looked at this idea as a way to bring some economic vibrancy to the community.
“This wouldn’t have happened unless there were some people that were visionaries,” he said. He went on to say that MLA Dan Ashton was “number one” in this regard.
“We wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for your being a great listener and then making things happen. We all have a lot of gratitude to you.”
Barber also thanked Sirett for being a “fantastic listener” as well.
“Your a hero from our point of view because we’re getting a lot more than we bargained for.”
The pathway project is expected to be open for use in August of this year.