On November 14, 2021 an atmospheric river hit the Pacific Northwest with a series of floods creating a critical natural disaster prompting the province to declare a state of emergency. The floods created havoc on many properties, communities, and Crown land with the Kettle Valley Rail Trail heavily impacted in the Similkameen Valley with extreme washouts and damages to the trail and historical infrastructure.
The KVR is a most important economic driver for the region, it is what connects the communities, attracts visitors, and motivates new residents however with the flood damage disconnecting the trail and causing closures, it is also disconnecting the communities from the highly coveted trails and attractions that make the area desirable.
On May 27, 2022 the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Foundation (TOTF) sent an inquiry to the Province asking if government is intending on applying for federal funding for KVR repairs, specifically the Infrastructure Canada Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund.
The Assistant Deputy Minister’s reply of June 17, 2022 advising “While I recognize the great importance of the KVR to communities, at this time government has not decided if the trail will be repaired” prompted TOTF to formally establish the KVR Trail Preservation Alliance (KVRTPA) as it is TOTF’s purpose and mandate to preserve and enhance the KVR rail trail.
As evidenced by the letters of concern from local first responders, it is imperative that government is made aware that these damaged sections of trail, not only have great importance directly related to the economic impact on the local communities, but also of great importance in ensuring public safety to facilitate the movement of tourists and recreationists in the region.
The flood has also shown us that the KVR trail provides protection and resilience against natural disasters, running along the river in areas that are susceptible to environmental impacts triggered by natural hazards, acting as a natural barrier, protecting private property and Crown land against the current and potential future impacts of extreme climate events.
Government decisions regarding trails are based on public demand, community needs, public safety, management capacity, funding available, municipal/regional/provincial government support, which are all factors that will influence the decision regarding repairing the KVR therefore it is incumbent upon us as stakeholders and stewards of the land, to work with the land managers to address these issues.
It is TOTF and KVRTPA’s goal to bring the collective voice forward on behalf of all stakeholders (users, businesses, communities) to collaboratively work with all levels of government to not only advocate for repairs, but also support fundraising efforts to assist with funding for current damage and the ongoing maintenance required to maintain the trail for the short and long term to ensure a lasting legacy.
Join us in celebrating and recognizing the significant history of the KVR rail trail and the important role it played in the early settlement of BC, built in the early 1900’s of seemingly impossible infrastructure dangling across the backbone of three mountain ranges and some of the most rugged river canyons on the face of the earth, with intricate trestles and tunnels built by hand using picks and shovels, these iconic landmarks provide a trails experience too spectacular to be forgotten.