A new trail that is set to connect Merritt to Coutlee is expected to have its grand opening soon.

Lloyd Charney, president of the Thompson Nicola Regional Trail Society, said that the society started working on this particular project about five years ago.

“The goal of it was to use the KVR (Kettle Valley Rail) railbed, either going towards Brookmere or towards Spences Bridge,” he said. “So the idea was to, you know, refurbish it, fix it up, develop it, and go from Merritt to Spences Bridge and be a great tourist thing.”

According to Charney, the project was then interrupted by a flood that happened in Merritt in November 2021, which took out the bridges and most of the trail of the railroad.

“Our membership dropped off after that. Right now we have just our executive (board) and we said, well let’s try to just do a little bit from Merritt to the Lower Nicola reserve,” he added.

Right now, Charney said that the trail society counts on community members to put their project to work.

“We’re so small and have no money budget, we’ve asked the community if they would help and it’s been just absolutely awesome,” Charney added.

Different businesses in the community, such as Home Hardware, Jackson’s Welding and Yellowhead Road & Bridge are lending a hand on the project with personnel and equipment to make the trail ready for use. 

Trail users will also notice a few information kiosks spread around the 1.8-kilometre trail, which it is set to pass by Sing’s corner up to Coutlee. 

“It is basically sandwiched between the river and the highway, so it’s flat, completely flat because of the railbed,” Charney said. “So someday we can develop it into a hard surface.”

For Charney, having the trail connecting Merritt to Coutlee is a great opportunity to get community members out of town and think a bit about the local history.

“The importance is for people to actually get out of the town and walk along an area that has been walked on thousands of years ago and just look at the hills and the mountains, river beside them,” he added. “Just have an imagination and say ‘you know what, people a long time ago walked around and they’re looking at the same hills and the same river, nothing has changed.”

He hopes that once the trail is open, a membership will be created in order to maintain or even develop it.

“As soon as we get set up is to form a bit of a real forum or membership, you might say, or people that would like to develop this trail by picking up paper and weed,” Charney said. “Just helping out and cleaning up.”

“The goal of the trail would be for the Lower Nicola Indian Band to probably hook up with that trail, so it would go right through the reserve. If it made it through the reserve, we would be able to go to Lower Nicola and serve that community. So it’d be a fantastic thing.”