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Penticton Creek

Penticton Creek was once one of the most productive waterways for Kokanee and Rainbow Trout on the Okanagan Lake system. At one time it contributed to an extraordinary recreational fishery, and continues to be important to the Okanagan people (Syilx) who have fished, hunted and gathered plant foods throughout the territory since the beginning of time. The City of Penticton was built on the Penticton Creek flood plain and as a result, the early history of the community was marked with several major floods between 1928 and 1948. To prevent flooding from recurring and damaging the downtown, government officials began to convert the natural stream to a concrete flume that would quickly and efficiently carry creek water to the lake.

These flood control works in the 1950’s resulted in the complete destruction of fish habitat along the lower sections of the creek, and decimated fish populations and riparian areas. Now, the existing channel banks have begun to erode and areas of the concrete are beginning to fail causing concern and creating sudden maintenance issues and costs.

Today, we have a better understanding of the value of nature in our urban areas. Returning the creek to a more natural state will benefit fish and wildlife, improve flood protection, help with the aesthetic and social values of the creek and recover an extremely important fishery resource in the region.

In 2012, City of Penticton City Council struck a working committee with a diverse group of experts and community representatives to build a plan for Penticton Creek restoration, including a significant amount of historic research, ecological studies and engineering design. In 2015, a “showcase” area of the creek was selected and just over an 80 meter stretch was restored.

For the first time in 50 years, concrete was proactively removed, and in its place more natural materials like river rock, gravel, and native vegetation were put in. On the one year anniversary of the project, Penticton Creek saw one of the largest runs of Kokanee in recent years. This restored area above the Ellis Street Bridge, draws locals and visitors alike to see the return of nature to the urban center. The possibilities to bring back Penticton Creek to its former glory are endless.

Bruce Turnbull

 

Fisherman and photographer

What do you love about the Okanagan? 

I love the fact that the South Okanagan is not heavily populated. It’s peaceful, quiet and has that rural feel. A healthy environment is tied to the quality of life here. For someone like me, who loves the outdoors, it is easy to walk out the door and in 15 minutes be in wilderness.

What do you worry about when you think about the Okanagan and the environment in the future? Why is a healthy environment important to you?

Since I and my family arrived here in 1981 I have seen huge changes in the valley. I gave up a career in a large City with a pretty decent pay cheque to come to the Okanagan because of the beauty and peacefulness here, but I do worry about over development and the problems that it will cause to the valley and the environment if left uncontrolled. I think that a good number of people who live here tend to forget what a paradise this valley is.

What will your own personal legacy for the Okanagan will be? What are you most proud of?

It’s important to me that the the environment doesn’t deteriorate further and that we should try to improve it where needed. If I can help with that I would be thrilled. I grew up spending a great deal of my time in the outdoors. It is because of this that I want to see my children and now my grandchildren, have the enjoyment I had as a child be it camping, hiking, bike riding, and fishing to list a few, as being available to enjoy today and well into the future including my grandchildrens children. How nice would that be.

What do you think about a household levy of $10/average/year? What could the benefits of a South Okanagan Conservation Fund be?

I can see the value of this fund. I think it should be higher than what is proposed. It’s a good start, and doesn’t seem to be an issue to most of the people I talk to. It’s incredible to witness improvements for wildlife, for example the return of bighorn sheep to the southern valley. Non-profit organizations and volunteer conservation clubs are having a really good impact. There is good value for money with groups like that working on conservation projects. I have seen and experienced it myself.

Dave Carleton

President, BC Wildlife Federation Region 8 and avid outdoorsman

What do you love about the Okanagan? 

The Okanagan is pretty special. There isn’t a place here that I don’t like. I was born here and have been here all of my life. Everything I do depends on a healthy environment. I love to hunt, I love to golf, fishing, riding. I absolutely love it here.

What do you worry about when you think about the Okanagan and the environment in the future? Why is a healthy environment important to you?

I worry about development and urbanization moving into the back country. Everything I do relies on a healthy environment – hunting, and fishing, riding our horses, cycling on the trails. We like to get outdoors. I’m passionate about it. If the environment isn’t good, it’s not something I like.

What do you think about a household levy of $10/average/year? What could the benefits of a South Okanagan Conservation Fund be?

I think the Conservation Fund is a fabulous idea. We need some money to start protecting and rebuilding the habitat that’s been lost. The benefits are huge to the environment, for habitat and for water. Water is a huge issue here and I think the fund can help with that. The amount of $10 is the easiest thing to do and somebody should have come up with it a long time ago.

Brigitte Daniels

 

Rancher, Bobtail Ranch

What do you love about the Okanagan? 

It’s such a unique area. There are so many diverse places around here that make it special and unique. I think many people are not aware of the size of the ranching community in the valley. We have the wine industry, the tourism industry, the beaches and the summer activities here, but the ranching industry goes year round.

What do you worry about when you think about the Okanagan and the environment in the future? Why is a healthy environment important to you?

To us in the ranching community, it’s really important that we maintain our grazing for cattle. Without the water and the grassland, it wouldn’t be possible. It’s really important that sensitive areas get protected. Any opportunity we have to make sure these areas are protected is really important to our industry.

What do you think about a household levy of $10/average/year? What could the benefits of a South Okanagan Conservation Fund be?

The conservation fund would be beneficial because the cost of protecting sensitive areas, for example fencing and restoring wetlands, is really costly to the rancher. Any help to protect these areas is a win-win situation. But also the fund would benefit everyone. When you add it all up, it will help us all tenfold.

If we’re not going to step up and protect it, who is? A number of conservation projects that I’ve seen have had amazing results, including one on my own property. Seeing some of these success stories has been very inspiring. I think if everyone knew what can be done, the good that can be done, they would be behind it 100 per cent.

Josee Bergeron

Okanagan Blogger, mom of three

What do you love about the Okanagan? 

I love that the Okanagan Valley has such unique ecosystems and so much diversity. There is always so much to do, learn about and explore, from swimming and canoeing on its beautiful lakes, to rock climbing and hiking to reach spectacular views and even skiing and pond skating in the winter. Pair these great activities with the ever changing seasons and it’s easy to see why people come from around the world to visit, work and study in our beautiful valley. 

What do you worry about when you think about the Okanagan and the environment in the future? Why is a healthy environment important to you?

I worry that people don’t know enough about the uniqueness of our area and because of this lack of knowledge they do not understand the importance of stewardship. We live in a “throwaway” culture and I think people forget that we cannot treat our environment that way. If we throw away what we have, we may lose it forever. A healthy environment means a healthy individuals and a healthy community. The two go hand in hand.

What will your own personal legacy for the Okanagan will be? What are you most proud of?

This is a good question. I feel like I am on a journey to help families know more about the Okanagan Valley through my blog so that they will have the opportunities to connect with the land and make beautiful memories together. This feels like a small thing right now but perhaps it will grow over time.

What do you think about a household levy of $10/average/year? What could the benefits of a South Okanagan Conservation Fund be?


I think that this is a very reasonable amount. I personally would be willing to pay more. It’s the cost of a couple specialty coffees at Starbucks at least. There are many benefits to this fund, probably more than I can even think about. To be sure there will be naysayers (there always are with any change). However, this is a very small investment for our future. I would encourage people to step outside and go for a walk, look around and ask themselves “do we want our children, our grandchildren and even our great-grandchildren to enjoy good health and access to plenty of beautiful land during their lifetime?” I hope the answer is a resounding “yes!”.

 

Johanna Saaltink with daughter Elmie Saaltink and granddaughter Lia McKinnon

Johanna Saaltink with daughter Elmie Saaltink and granddaughter Lia McKinnon

 

Three Generations of Adventurers

What do you love about the Okanagan? 

Johanna: I love the open spaces and the beautiful views.

Elmie: I love the colours. They’re very calming colours – the yellows, creams, blues. And I love the water, the contrast between the dry land and the water.

Lia: I love all the different habitat types. The fact that you can go from the lake to alpine meadows, wetlands and dry forest all within a short drive. There are so many amazing trails up in the mountains and so many opportunities to get outside and experience it all.

What do you worry about when you think about the Okanagan and the environment in the future? Why is a healthy environment important to you?

Johanna: For me the increase in population is a worry.

Elmie: There’s a lot of pressure to develop all the land that’s available. And that development happens in some very fragile habitats. I’m afraid that once it’s gone, it’s very, very difficult to get it back. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.

Lia: Grasslands or shrub steppes which are really endangered ecosystems tend to be seen as wastelands and there are a lot of species at risk that are dependent on those habitats. These are old growth systems of the desert so these plants are hundreds of years old and they require a certain lack of disturbance.

What do you think about a household levy of $10/average/year? What could the benefits of a South Okanagan Conservation Fund be?

Lia: I think it’s a great idea. Having those funds available is so helpful for local groups to leverage outside funds. If you collect $10 per household you can probably get $20 per household from federal and provincial sources and other organizations. Those matching contributions are significant, enough to take on bigger projects.

Elmie: I think about my children and grandchildren and I really believe the land doesn’t belong to us. We’re borrowing it from future generations. We should be taking care of it.

Ernie Sheridan

Real Estate Agent

What do you love about the Okanagan? 

I love its natural beauty. I think it’s one of the most beautiful places in Canada, if not the world. The diversity is so great. Here we are in the desert, the only desert in Canada and yet we have high alpine skiing close by. The mountains to the east are beautiful, the valleys that surround us are beautiful. I love it all. The Okanagan sells itself because of its natural beauty.

What do you worry about when you think about the Okanagan and the environment in the future? Why is a healthy environment important to you?

I’m concerned about protecting the environment for all who live here. What’s good for the environment is good for its inhabitants, all of its inhabitants, not just the people.

What do you think about a household levy of $10/average/year? What could the benefits of a South Okanagan Conservation Fund be?

I’m in favour of the conservation fund. It’s a small amount of money you’re asking people to contribute to have a clean living environment – cleaner air, less invasive species, green spaces for people to enjoy. People need to look at the natural world around them and cherish what we have here in own back yard.

Hillary Ward and Eric Newton, with baby Emily

Okanagan Biologists and new parents

What do you love about the Okanagan? 

Hillary: What I love about the Okanagan is the abundance of nature and natural areas that are available for us to experience.

What do you worry about when you think about the Okanagan and the environment in the future? Why is a healthy environment important to you?

Hillary: I think in the Okanagan we’re facing real problems with increasing development in the area and so protecting natural spaces is a key priority to be focused on for the Okanagan.

What do you think about a household levy of $10/average/year? What could the benefits of a South Okanagan Conservation Fund be?

Hillary: We absolutely support the idea of a levy to preserve natural spaces in the Okanagan. Growing up in Victoria I’ve seen what the conservation fund there has done for that area. It’s an excellent example of what can be done here in the Okanagan. It’s really such a small dollar amount that you’re asking people for and you’re contributing to something that is going to last a lifetime.

Natalie Minunzie

Long-time Okanagan resident

What do you love about the Okanagan? 

It’s the most beautiful landscape I’ve ever seen. It’s got colour, the hills, the open spaces, the blue sky and the clear air. I love everything about this place.

What do you worry about when you think about the Okanagan and the environment in the future? Why is a healthy environment important to you?

I have lived here for 16 years and I’ve seen incredible changes. There are more and more people coming here and we really have to start acting now. We have the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen. It’s so important we work together to preserve it. It’s important to develop a sense of stewardship especially among young people. People have to understand why they are preserving habitat so they can take steps in the future to make sure it survives.

What do you think about a household levy of $10/average/year? What could the benefits of a South Okanagan Conservation Fund be?

I think the $10 levy is extremely modest, I think it’s well within most people’s reach. It will also help leverage more money, and so it has even greater potential of doing a great deal of good.

Kenn and Sandra Oldfield

Owners, Tinhorn Creek Vineyards

What do you love about the Okanagan? 

Sandra: For me having moved up from California I like the variedness of it. It’s not a monoculture here. It’s got good protection of farmland as well as lots of native areas. Not many people know that right behind us is the whole Kobau range, with native grasses and fauna that exist here. For me I like going up there, where the wildflowers and birds are bountiful.

Kenn: Right up behind our property is the Thompson plateau. I love that right from the edge of our farmland it goes straight into a natural rangeland native landscape.

What do you worry about when you think about the Okanagan and the environment in the future? Why is a healthy environment important to you?

Sandra: I have long term concerns about water, and development pressure. I don’t like to see our native rangeland turned over to development. We’re always going to see those pressures because we’re always going to be growing but it’s a matter of how you balance people and wildlife. The only way to do it is if you’re in a group, collaborating, talking about it together. I think the conservation fund will provide that opportunity.

What do you hope your personal legacy for the Okanagan will be? What are you most proud of?

Sandra: Being stewards of our own land is as much as we could ever hope for. I think we’ll turn this land over in better condition than when we took it on. But from a wider Okanagan perspective I think the only thing that I can do is trying to show businesses that you can be financially successful and you can be sustainable. Those two things aren’t mutually exclusive. Our sustainability programs here on the farm have saved us money. I think that’s the opposite of what most business owners think. They think to become sustainable takes a lot of capital input and instead it actually just means making your operations more efficient.

Kenn: I think the best that we can do, is be a good example, to show people what can be done. I’m most proud of our reputation for the things we’ve done here on the vineyard. Some of the loyalty from our customers comes from how we feel about the environment and what we do here to make a difference. It’s the little steps that can help a great deal.

What do you think about a household levy of $10/average/year? What could the benefits of a South Okanagan Conservation Fund be?

Sandra: People have the opportunity now, for literally a buck a month, to have local control over resources, to have a local discussion and prioritize things. Do I want to see more taxes? Probably not, but every household here takes advantage of everything that this levy would fund. Everybody loves nature, but they can’t just expect it can go on without funding. Show me someone here that use or doesn’t look at or respect the nature that’s around us. There’s a reason why we choose to live here and it’s because of nature, so even if you’re not physically partaking you’re here because of it and we need money to sustain it.

Kenn: The nicest thing for me about the conservation fund is local money means local control. If you put it in to the pot yourself then you’ve got a say over how that pot gets used. If we can leverage it to get federal funds then so much the better.