The West Bay Trail is proposed to run from Salmon Arm to Tappen. (Shuswap Trail Alliance image)

Salmon Arm West Bay Trail project moving forward

City to sign memorandum of understanding with Neskonlith, Adams Lake bands

The dream of a safe pedestrian connection between Salmon Arm and neighbouring band lands is moving closer to becoming a reality.

At 1 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 31, representatives from the City of Salmon Arm, Neskonlith and Adams Lake bands will meet at Pierre’s Point to sign a memorandum of understanding for the trail’s creation. The city and bands are partners in the West Bay Trail Working Group, which includes the Columbia Shuswap Regional District, Interior Health, CP Rail, the MLA, the MP, Province of BC, Switzmalph Cultural Society and the Shuswap Trail Alliance.

A Jan. 13 media release from the Shuswap Trail Alliance (STA) notes the signing is of particular significance to Neskonlith Band Coun. Louis Thomas, who for the past 40 years has been an advocate of the trail.

“To me, it’s about all the lives that were lost there…,” said Thomas. ” I see other benefits that come with it; originally it was about safety of people, and now I want people to enjoy what the delta has to offer, the loons, otters and ducks.”

More than 40 people have died on the CP Rail tracks that form the only direct connection between Salmon Arm and band lands to the west. Despite the risk, many people prefer to take the shorter train route than Highway 1.

Read more: Safe route needed between First Nations, Salmon Arm communities

Read more: Salmon Arm mayor hopeful funds for major eco-tourism project not lost

Read more: Shuswap projects left with uncertain future after rural dividend funding suspended

For Neskonlith Chief Judy Wilson, the trail is about building of connections between communities and providing a safer pathway for work, school, shopping, exercising and getting outdoors. In addition the trail’s health and safety benefits, Adams Lake Indian Band Chief Clifford Arnouse sees it as an opportunity to highlight the area’s cultural and environmental importance.

“Cultural names and place names will be used which will get our story out with more facts,” said Arnouse. “We can show the environment and how we are trying to look after it as naturally as we can.”

The completed trail would connect with Salmon Arm’s existing foreshore trail leading from Marine Park to Raven.

After the signing, the next steps in building the trail will involve sourcing funding for planning, including archaeological, cultural and environmental assessments.

The public is welcome to attend the signing at Pierre’s Point on Jan. 31.

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