Summer in the South Okanagan, Boundary and Similkameen brings great weather, wonderful harvests of fruit and vegetables, tourists and traffic. Throughout the region, the flow of traffic slows and frustrations build.
In communities like Okanagan Falls, just getting safely across the road even with a marked sidewalk is a challenge. Thanks to Pat Burton, who organized a petition that garnered over 1,100 signatures, awareness has been raised and discussions are underway with Highways to improve pedestrian safety with the provision of a controlled and lighted crossing at Highway 97 and Cedar Street.
Agriculture is also at the forefront during the summer as we enjoy the fresh produce available. Many events also happen on farms during this time of year and new Agri-Tourism guidelines will ensure that farming is the primary use of ALR lands by clarifying which events can be held, how many people can attend, and that the footprint of the activity remains in the allowable space and does not infringe on farming operations. The new rules can be accessed through the BC Government website and is the result of discussions with UBCM, the BC Ag Council, the ALC and the BC Young Farmers Association.
The first monies from the new Rural Dividend Fund have been distributed. The fund of 25 million a year for 3 years was established to support communities under 25,000 in population improve their economic futures. The first recipients are receiving $10,000 each. Oliver will update its downtown revitalization plan, Keremeos will look at ways to improve the visual appeal of the Village, Midway will get help applying for grants and contracting the improvements to their Community Hall, and Area E (Rock Creek) in the RDKB will work on plans to process and market local meat products. Larger grants will also be announced at a later date.
Wine is always “top of mind” and the Lieutenant Governor’s Awards have again recognized some new and not so new wineries in the region. Congratulations to Kismet, Bordertown, Gold Hill, Hester Creek, and Intersection wineries for receiving this very prestigious award. We are very proud of the wines produced in our region and the continuing dedication to excellence of the entire wine industry.
As we move once again towards September and the beginning of another school year, we continue to look for new ways to help our smaller communities maintain a vibrant school system. The School Transportation Fund recently announced will help transport students safely and quickly to school and can be directed to the areas that each school district feels would benefit their students. Perhaps to shorten the ride times or reinstate a bus stop that was discontinued due to low numbers of students at that location. Transportation needs for students with disabilities can also be enhanced with this funding. We recognize the value of rural schools to the economies of rural communities and will continue to look for ways to give students the best education possible close to home.
Please enjoy the best our beautiful area has to offer at this time of year and be patient on the highways — all of our visitors just want to enjoy this area as well, and take some of the harvest home with them.