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Tourist gondola ascends through approval processes

Ridge North America hopes to replicate its success in Golden
The view from the proposed Okanagan Gondola, which is currently working its way through approval processes.

The success of tourist gondolas elsewhere in the province has spawned plans for a tourist gondola overlooking Kalamalka Lake.

The project, announced last year by Ridge North America, will complement the nearby Predator Ridge development.

The proposal is modelled on the Sea-to-Sky Gondola in Squamish and follows the opening two years ago of Ridge's Skybridge project in Golden. It is one of a number of gondola projects proposed around the province, including the Cascade Skyline Gondola adjacent to Bridal Falls in Chilliwack.

The Okanagan Gondola project is currently progressing through approval channels. Ridge originally hoped to begin site work this year and have a few amenities ready for the 2024 season, but a number of requirements have yet to be met.

Ridge has provided a wildfire mitigation strategy developed by Forsite Forest Management Specialists to regional directors in the North Okanagan and is funding an archeological and environmental review by the Okanagan Indian Band.

In response to previous concerns about water supply on the sprawling 285-acre site above Highway 97, storage plans have been outlined along with plans to minimize water usage.

Water would be stored for both use on site and held in tanks for fire response.

A road to the upper gondola station would allow water truck access.

The Okanagan Gondola project is next slated to go to a public hearing, to be held Oct. 5.

The next step in approval would be a change in land use designation from large holdings to commercial and zoning from large holdings to recreation commercial.

Final adoption will wait until after arrangements are made for a future public trail corridor.

An environmentally sensitive lands development permit is also required, along with approval from the Agricultural Land Commission for non-farm use of portions of the property within the Agricultural Land Reserve.

The project, announced last year, will include an amphitheatre, cafe, farmers and artisan market, as well as food and beverage and retail outlets, viewing platforms and access to trails. It would climb 1,600 feet from the base, located just off Bailey Road, above Kal Lake and Kekuli Bay Provincial Park.