Conversion of this area that was previously a rail yard to the head of the Okanagan Rail Trail provides a chance for a new beginning.
In re-imagining this new public space, project partners (Regional District of North Okanagan, Okanagan Indian Band, Friends of Okanagan Rail Trail) considered many possibilities. The physical needs of trail users were a priority, but the team also realized the opportunity to create a unique learning space.
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Place-making began with learning the traditional place name n̓kək̓m̓apl̓qs.
n̓kək̓m̓apl̓qs refers to the head of the little lake (Kalamalka). Note: nqmaplqs refers to the head of the larger Okanagan Lake (the main settlement area for the sqilx/syilx people of the Okanagan Indian Band). Learning about n̓kək̓m̓apl̓qs provided a new perspective on culture and local history, including some surprises and lessons that would benefit all of us as we enjoy the trail.
For thousands of years before a rail line was developed, the sqilxʷ/syilx evolved a deep relationship with this land, and language developed to reflect this deep relationship. n̓kək̓m̓apl̓qs was a place of winter dwellings and seasonal campsites, and part of the extensive area the sqilxʷ/syilx travelled for food, resources and kinship. Creation of the Km 0 gateway provides an opportunity to bring back native plants, and the sqilxʷ/syilx presence at n̓kək̓m̓apl̓qs.
The Km 0 plaza design was inspired by a sqilxʷ/syilx seasonal fishing campsite with teepees of woven tule mats. Interpretive signs will introduce some stories of the the land and people, and provide some lessons to benefit us all.
Native plant restoration was the first phase of work to convert this area from rail yard to trailhead. What we learn about native plant restoration here can help inform restoration of other natural areas or landowners wishing to switch to low maintenance, drought resistant landscaping.
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