A new miniature railway attraction is one of the proposed additions at Horsting’s Farm Market, just north of Cache Creek on Highway 97, and the public will soon be able to have their say on what they think about it.
At its regular meeting on Sept. 23, the board of the Thompson-Nicola Regional District voted to give first and second reading to a Zoning Amendment Bylaw that would allow Horsting’s to construct and operate open air amusement rides and attractions at the site, including a miniature passenger railway train similar to the one at the B.C. Wildlife Park in Kamloops.
A report to the TNRD board noted that the railway is one of several attractions the property owners hope to add to the site over the next decade. Other proposed attractions include mini-golf, bumper boats, ziplines, and a pipe coaster.
If approved, the site-specific amendment would allow “Tourist commercial uses, in conjunction with agricultural uses, limited to bakery, restaurant/deli, amusement devices and rides and minor retail.”
In March 2021, the TNRD board supported a “non-farm use” application to the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC). In July the ALC approved the non-farm use, meaning that the zoning bylaw amendment application to the TNRD could proceed.
The report says that the owners are seeking to expand the non-farm portion of the business to supplement income and attract more visitors to the site. All the proposed new uses are intended to be accessory uses to the existing agricultural operation, which will remain the primary uses of the property.
In a letter that accompanied the March 2021 application, the owners said that they wanted to “enhance our existing business to include themed agri-tourism and tourist attractions as well as a new retail farm market combined with a train station and a new Greenhouse/Garden Centre. This would include a railway transportation system which would move our guests to different points and attractions throughout the farm.
“Buildings would be themed to the Cariboo Gold Rush time and a western look, which would include existing and new buildings. There would be small themed specialty concessions throughout the farm to add value to products we are growing along with a cidery/winery (produced from the apples and fruit we grow on the farm).”
The letter goes on to state that attractions would be “family orientated and interactive” and would help enhance the local history of the area with the focus on the Cariboo Gold Rush. “The property was part of the gold trail road and the existing house was built by Judge Calder in the late 1800s … The proposed project will add jobs and bring more visitors to our farm and surrounding businesses.”
Additional attractions that are proposed for the site include a corn maze, gold panning sluice, kids’ pedal cars, and a children’s play area. The railway line would wind around the entire site (crossing the Bonaparte River in two places) and have stations at different spots along the route.
TNRD planning services noted that the application, and subsequent land uses, will provide benefits to the property owner, the local area, and the region by contributing to a “vibrant rural neighbourhood centre where local residents and tourists can meet” and allowing the owners the opportunity to “continue improving upon lower quality agricultural lands with expanded farm market operations.”
Formal bylaw approval is required from the Ministry of Transportation. Among the items that need to be considered are traffic congestion on Highway 97 and the lack of left turn and deceleration/acceleration lanes in a 90 km/h zone.
The next step will be a public hearing about the proposed bylaw amendments. No date or location for that meeting has been set.