A new trail, to be constructed between Lakeshore Drive and Illahie Beach, is the first piece in a much longer trail concept with the potential to link communities throughout the Okanagan Valley.
On Thursday, the province and the municipality announced a partnership to pay for the $500,000 trail section.
Under the agreement, the province will contribute $420,000 while the municipality will contribute $80,000.
The long-term benefits of this trail are easy to see. If a good trail system is in place, it can serve as a tourism draw, just as similar regional walking and cycling trails have helped to attract tourists in other areas.
The trail also has an immediate benefit, namely improved safety for those who want to walk or cycle from Lakeshore Drive to Trout Creek. The multi-use path will provide a safe way to travel, separate from the traffic on Highway 97.
The trail funding announcement is significant since the province is contributing the bulk of the funding. In the past, many funding announcements required the municipality to cover one-quarter, one-third or one-half the cost of the project. This time, Summerland’s share of the cost is much lower.
At the same time, the proposed Trail of the Okanagans is not just a one-kilometre segment in Summerland. Trail organizers hope to have a multi-use trail extending throughout the valley.
Whether similar funding agreements are made for future segments of the trail remains to be seen.
The first segment will show what can be done to create a good multi-use trail.
Creating the entire trail will require multiple partnerships, not only with the province but with local governments, regional districts and service organizations throughout the Okanagan.