Cycling initiatives will benefit communities within region

For the past few years, I’ve been writing every spring about the power of cycling as an economic rejuvenator.

For the past few years, I’ve been writing every spring about the power of cycling as an economic rejuvenator.  Happily, on every front the cycling infrastructure in the Okanagan region continues to grow.

Two years ago a comprehensive economic impact study was done on the proposed North Okanagan Rail Trail that indicated significant benefits in terms of full time jobs and incremental spending.  Many different types of businesses will benefit, such as accommodation facilities, food and beverage establishments, transportation companies, wineries, museums, recreation facilities and retail trade outlets.

A key consideration is that the expansion of cycling and trail routes provides all these economic benefits in our shoulder seasons, bringing people to the region as early as March/April and giving them the opportunity to enjoy the area right through Oct/November.

Similar economic benefits are expected to come to the South Okanagan and we have already seen many changes in the past 15 months. By working in their own arenas and together, the provincial government, the RDOS, our municipal governments, the South Okanagan Indian bands and numerous community groups have made great strides.

At their recent AGM, the Trail of the Okanagans Society provided a time line itemizing these which include ones directly impacting Summerland, such as the opening, last summer, of Phase I of the Lakeside Pathway connecting Lower Town to Trout Creek.

A few months ago stakeholders met to discuss options for Phase II of the Lakeside Pathway between SunOka Beach and Penticton and the Province, MOTI and Summerland and Penticton municipal councils have now committed funds for the design study.

Phase III, connecting Summerland to Peachland via the Fur Brigade Trail is also being planned and has support from groups to the north of Summerland.  A new local bike path, as part of the municipal Garnett Valley Rd. resurfacing project, will link people to the trail.

In order to more effectively market this growing infrastructure to tourists, Penticton, Summerland and Naramata have joined together and have received funding support from our municipalities and from Destination BC for a spring bike festival called Chain of Events.

This is a May and early June regional festival highlighting all the various events that are available for bike enthusiasts to join and is being promoted in the lower mainland and Alberta.

Two Summerland events that are featured are Tea at the Top on May 8, sponsored by Trail of the Okanagans and the new bike race event as part of the Giants Head Grind on the May long weekend.

In 2017 the communities hope to launch a signature event that takes riders on a horseshoe shaped tour between the three communities and will involve a water element.

Please visit www.okchainofevents.com to see the full regional list and learn about all the events.

We always appreciate your feedback.  Please contact me at cpetkau@summerlandchamber.com  or our Chamber President, Erick Thompson, at president@summerlandchamber.com .

Christine Petkau is the Executive Director of the Summerland Chamber of Commerce.