A new sky-high tourist attraction has been proposed overlooking Kalamalka Lake, around the corner from Predator Ridge south of Vernon.
The developers of the Golden Skybridge, the highest suspension bridge in Canada, have put together a proposal for the Okanagan Gondola Project, which would see a gondola built to take visitors up 1,600 feet from a Bailey Road site near the Okanagan Rail Trail to the summit.
The project is in the planning stage, and development plans will soon be presented to the Regional District of North Okanagan (RDNO).
The proposed facility features 15 different on-site activities, according to a press release.
At the base of the gondola will be a plaza — a “family-friendly, resort-inspired space” featuring an amphitheatre, a cafe, a farmer and artisan market, food and beverage and retail outlets. The plaza will also have a playground with tree houses, a treetop rope challenge course and a specially designed play area for infants.
From the base, visitors will head up the gondola to the mid-station, where there will be viewing platforms and trails through the surrounding forest.
A third station will be situated at the summit, where there will be more viewing platforms, walking and bike trails and a restaurant.
Less than 5 per cent of the project area’s land will be developed, as 275 of the 285 acres will remain untouched.
Paul Deutsch, president of Ridge North America — the project’s developer which also built Canada’s highest suspension bridge in Golden — says the goal is to build a world-class Okanagan tourist destination that will be inclusive to everyone.
“We want to create a really fun place for families and people of all ages,” he said. “We hope to create something special, similar to what we did at the Golden Skybridge. This development will be an opportunity to protect the beautiful natural landscape along the highway corridor while creating hundreds of jobs and a truly iconic family-friendly destination for both visitors and locals.”
A development application has been made and the project is currently going through the permit stages while awaiting review and approval from the RDNO. The hope is to start construction in 2023 and have some early amenities and activities ready by 2024.
“They are looking to build something similar to the Squamish Gondola, but this would be an amazing multi-faceted experience showcasing the glorious Kalamalka Lake,” said Brad Pelletier, senior vice president for Westbild Okanagan. “If there is any viewpoint deserving of a gondola, it’s the jewel of the Okanagan, Kalamalka Lake.”
Rav Soomal, vice president of operations for Ridge North America, said the company is excited to show the public what they’re doing.
“We’ll have something for everyone, from grandparents to small children,” Soomal said. “The summit at the peak of the mountain will be amazing, but the plaza at the base will be the hub of the project. It will be a really cool, fun village and a place to hang out, very immersive and a community place for everyone to enjoy.”