Enhancing Tourism Through Rail Trail Development

The Thompson Okanagan enjoys an extensive Rail Trail network as a result of decommissioned Railway lines throughout the region. These “Rail Trails” as they are developed will provide an opportunity to attract cycling and hiking enthusiasts of many ages and abilities to the region.

Key to the attraction of these trail networks is the less than 3% grade or incline at any point along the trails, making them easily accessible for to a wide range of cycling or hiking abilities.

To date much of the Rail Trail activity has been handled through Forest Lands and Natural Resources (FLNRO), Rec Sites and Trails, Trails BC and other organizations looking to create active transportation and healthy communities. There has been no designated organization with a regional mandate for the facilitation of trails tourism development and the marketing and promotion of multi-day itineraries and packaging.

riding-rail-trails

In the spring of 2016 Thompson Okanagan Tourism (TOTA), with funding and support from Destination BC (DBC), hired a consulting group to prepare the Thompson Okanagan Regional Rail Trails Tourism Strategy.

This strategy, completed in March of 2016 was developed with a focus on the Kettle Valley and Columbia Western Rail Trail route (the Trans Canada Trail section in the TOTA Region); however it has broader implications for all of the region’s rail trails.

Within the strategy 59 recommendations were made with several noted as critical for implementation in year one.

Currently our TOTA team including our two Rail Trails Coordinators are taking steps to implement the following in 2016/17

  • Establishment of a Rail Trail Trust Fund
  • Develop an MOU with First Nations Partners
  • Create partnership with Off Road Vehicle Groups
  • Develop Signage Plan
  • Create Market Ready Product Inventory
  • Align with 150 Celebration Activities
  • Develop Rail Trail Website and marketing materials

The TOTA Rail Trail initiative project lead is Ellen Walker-Matthews, Experience Development Specialist together with Rail Trail Co-ordinators Mike Overend and Gillian Satherstrom.

Riding the trestles in Myra Canyon near Kelowna.

Riding the trestles in Myra Canyon near Kelowna.