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Vernon  

Hockeyville remembered

Two lead organizers from the successful Lumby Hockeyville bid are being flown to Prince Edward Island this week, to take part in celebrations for the new winner.

Last year, Angie Clowry, Cole Young and others embarked on a major social media campaign that won Lumby the 2016 Kraft Hockeyville title.

The town also received $100,000 from Kraft for renovations to the Pat Duke Memorial Arena and a pre-season NHL game that was played in Vernon.

Clowry and Young will soon be flying off to watch a Sept. 25th pre-season NHL game in O'Leary, P.E.I. The small town was awarded the 2017 Hockeyville title and an NHL game back in April.

“I have to say it's been one of the most memorable experiences of my life, tons of fun,” said Clowry, a driving force in Lumby's efforts. “Just to see how the community got together, how businesses got together.”

The win was a major boost to community pride and that enabled Clowry to continue efforts to raise funds for the arena.

“We work with the (North Okanagan) regional district, we work with the White Valley Parks and Recreation...$100,000 sounds great for an individual (but) for an arena, you need a lot."

"We have roughly $170,000 earmarked for the Pat Duke Arena improvements, after we spent $8,000 last year on developing the three concepts for improvements," said Tannis Nelson, NORD's community services manager.

Meanwhile, Clowry is looking forward to her trip east.

“I'm really excited to experience another community's event....I'm excited to watch an NHL game. Last year, I was so wound up, I didn't get to relax and watch it.”

O'Leary has a smaller population than Lumby boasting 815 people but it is located in Prince County which has 44,000 residents.



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Dogs in park questionnaire

The City of Vernon wants to know how residents feel about on leash dogs in Polson Park.

On Monday, council okayed a two year trial in the park, starting this fall.

In order to keep the park clean, dog bag dispensers and signage will be installed and a drinking fountain for dogs will be installed next spring.

"Vernon residents will have an opportunity to provide their comments about the trial through a questionnaire that will be launched during the trial period. The start of the trial will be announced this fall," said a press release issued Tuesday.

Council  has okayed the expenditure of $28,150 for the dog related changes and another $32,000 for improvements to the pathway and boardwalk.

The move is an effort to encourage more people to use the park following a bylaw to ensure homeless people cannot camp there beyond 9 a.m. each day.



Too many pot shops

Vernon councillor Dalvir Nahal has expressed concern over the explosion in marijuana dispensaries and related businesses.

While pot shops have been open in Vernon for the past three years, many more have opened over the past 18 months, including in the downtown core and even at strip malls.

“It seems like they have doubled or tripled,” Nahal said during a council meeting on Monday. “How many are operating with a license?”

“None is operating with a license that allows them to sell marijuana,” answered Kim Flick, community infrastructure and development manager.

“The city does not license illegal activities,” said Will Pearce, the city's chief executive officer.

The lack of guidance from Ottawa appears to be a major part of the problem.

Pearce said the city was waiting for a clearer picture from the federal government which plans to legalize marijuana sales in some form.

“It's getting a little bit chaotic,” Pearce admitted. “There are no rules.”

He also advised that while some municipalities do periodic crackdowns on the dispensaries, “the RCMP are not getting a lot of support from Crown counsel.”

During an interview later, Flick confirmed that some of the marijuana dispensaries were issued business licenses but that they were not renewed at the beginning of the year.

“The first ones applied under a legitimate use adhering to requirements of the business license. Subsequently, we found they were selling marijuana,” Flick said.

While Nahal said she was not against the businesses, she admitted to concern over the proliferation of the pot shops throughout Vernon and the lack of regulation.



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Gleaners lose out

Vernon city councillors have commended the work done by the North Okanagan Gleaners Society – but they are not giving them a break on their property taxes.

Council approved a staff recommendation to deny the tax exemption because the charitable benefit is outside of the municipality.

Okanagan-based gleaner groups gather fruit and vegetables that would not normally be picked and dry the surplus food crops for export to countries in need of sustenance. Distribution is done by established Christian aid organizations.

Coun. Brian Quiring said the group should get a break.

“I don't know why we wouldn't want to support them,” Quiring told council on Monday. “These people (export) huge, huge volumes of food. There is some benefit in helping other people in other areas of the world dying from hunger.”

But Mayor Akbal Mund said despite their good works, the gleaners “don't fall within the terms of reference that is applied here.”

Coun. Juliette Cunningham expressed concern over the implications of allowing a tax break.

A request for a property tax exemption for the Community Dental Access Centre was also denied because the centre does not own its 31st Avenue location or make payments directly to the city.



Homeless get a break

The handful of homeless people still sleeping in Polson Park are getting a break on the time they can set up their tents as the days grow shorter, although not before some heated debate at city council.

Recently, Vernon council passed a bylaw that allows camping in most city parks between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m. when there are no other beds available in the community.

But, at a meeting on Monday, councillors passed a resolution stating the bylaw was not to be enforced after 7 p.m.

“It's getting dark much earlier so these people are wandering around instead of getting settled,” Coun. Juliette Cunningham told council.

Cunningham said the matter was of concern to social service groups, including the COOL team, that administer to the homeless.

Councillors Scott Anderson and Dalvir Nahal opposed the resolution.

Anderson said a change would “neuter” the bylaw.

“Our object is to stop people from camping in the park. This is essentially going to gut our intention if we start chipping away at the slab....(The bylaw) has been in force now for a month. Why don't we give it a chance?”

Bylaw official Darren Lees confirmed there are far fewer people sleeping rough in the park, estimating about six people were still camping, far from the 30 or so who were there at the beginning of the summer.

Nahal pointed to the campsites that have sprung up on 25th Avenue by Linear Park.

“All we have done is disperse the problem,” agreed Cunningham. “We have not solved the problem. There are probably as many (homeless) out there as there probably were.”

Later, Cunningham accused the city of hoping the homeless would “disappear and become some other community's problem.”

But Anderson said many of the transients were from elsewhere and the councillors were responsible to the citizens of Vernon.

Costs for monitoring the park have shot up in the past year, council has authorized $70,000, $30,000 and $13,000 at separate times to increase a bylaw presence in the park. As well, $60,000 was put in the 2017 budget for the clean up of homeless camps.

In further moves to make the park safer and used more often, council has now approved reserve and unexpended funds of $28,150 to be spent on a two-year pilot program permitting dogs on-leash within Polson Park and $32,000 for vegetation removal and improvements to the trail and boardwalk area.



Show a little Respect

RespectFEST 2017 was launched in Vernon Monday with a free pancake breakfast at Civic Square.

The festival is a week long celebration that gives the public the chance to learn about, and interact with, people from all different races, cultures, religions and backgrounds.

It's about respect of all kinds – to others, to nature, to art.

“Really our goal is to get people thinking about multiculturalism and diversity, interacting, taking part in events, music, dance, history, culture,” said Annette Sharkey, executive director of the Social Planning Council. “It's just a really exciting time to celebrate everything that makes up Canada, all the different nationalities...and the strength that that brings to our nation.

“I think we can see what's happening in the States and as Canadians I think we really need to gather, we need to acknowledge that multiculturalism is strength and it's something we want to protect and we want to celebrate.”

While there is a strong focus on the positive, Sharkey said the festival will also look at Canada's history in relation to the impact on indigenous communities, and the Okanagan Nation in particular.

Events, including interpretive art and history walks, environmental and educational opportunities and a one-day multicultural festival on Saturday will take place over the course of the week.

More information can be found online.



Needles, trash near park

A Vernon father-daughter team are being praised on social media, after spending part of Sunday cleaning up an abandoned homeless camp near the entrance to Becker Park, above Alexis Park Drive.

“There were people on (the Vernon & Area Community) forum talking about this camp,” said Dawn Tucker, a former teacher who was born and raised in Vernon. “I convinced my dad, Eric, to help go into the area and clean it up so we grabbed garbage bags and gloves.”

Pictures posted on Facebook show the Tuckers found plenty of needles in the area, some placed in containers, others lying on the ground.

Tucker said that since she has had to pick up abandoned needles in her own neighbourhood near the Schubert Centre, she has a device to retrieve them.

“I have friends in health care and they have explained about how to deal with SHARPS.”

It took about 90 minutes to pick up the needles, garbage and food strewn about the camp that was used by one or two people over the summer. The campers have since moved farther down the hill.

Tucker said she hopes people can now feel safer hiking up to the park.

“If we as citizens of Vernon take a bit more ownership in our community, it gives us a community we want to live in....Everybody can do something. Seniors from Canterbury (Court) and Columbus Court do it all the time. They are out there picking up garbage and they don't have social media.”



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