City to review public art policy as controversial murals back on agenda

Murals back before council

As the controversial Behind the Mask murals come before Vernon city council on Monday, councillors will also review the city's defunct public visual arts policy.

The policy hasn't been used since 2009, when the city's public art advisory committee was disbanded.

"Administration has been planning to develop a new policy, but due to competing priorities, has not yet accomplished this task," a report to council states.

At the time, the committee's guiding principles included celebrating and promoting local artists, demonstrating the significance of art in community life, preserving public artworks, and being an integral part of civic planning.

Meanwhile, the mask murals will be back before council after the Vernon Public Art Gallery's presentation of public consultation results last month.

The project, which would see 11 murals around the downtown area, was sent back to gallery for feedback after competing petitions surfaced both for and against the murals.

The petition against the mental health themed murals garnered more than 4,000 names, doubling that of the petition in support.

Council could decide to support the murals in whole or in part, or that the images be displayed only in the art gallery.

The project has caused much debate in the community, with residents split over the concept of support for mental health and the radical visual departure from Vernon's other, historically themed murals.

"Council will need to decide if the consultation conducted by (gallery) meets their expectations," the report states.

Meanwhile, another mural project will also come before council.

The Roster Sports Club Bar and Grill is requesting a great blue heron themed mural on its 53rd Avenue building, adjacent to the birds' nesting grounds.

The project is envisioned as a public show of support for the Vernon Heronry Protection Society.

That mural is not expected to generate any controversy.


Hay spontaneously combusts in Old Kamloops Road fire

Hay goes up in flames

Spontaneous combustion is believed to have caused a hay bale fire Thursday afternoon in Vernon.

About 4 p.m., firefighters were dispatched to the fire on Old Kamloops Road, near the north end of the Kin Race Track site.

The load of hay being towed on a trailer caught fire, and "crews worked quickly to remove several bales of hay from the trailer and extinguished the fire before it spread," says City of Vernon spokesperson Christy Poirier.

Public works staff from the city also attended the scene to help move hay bales off the road and unravel them to ensure the fire was fully extinguished.

During the response, wind started to pick up, "but the fire was extinguished before it became an issue," says Poirier.

No injuries or damage were reported during the incident.

Traffic along Old Kamloops Road was reduced for about an hour and a half while crews worked on the site.

RCMP also attended the scene.

Site prep begins on BX Creek project, more dog park closures required

Park closures broaden

Site preparations have begun on a BX Creek sediment pond project.

Work on the flood mitigation project will close the BX Creek dog park during construction.

The City of Vernon says the sediment pond will be a major step in reducing seasonal flooding of the creek.

Originally slated for work Monday to Saturday through the summer, the city now says some Sunday work – and park closures – will be required to meet strict permitting deadlines and environmental regulation requirements.

"The park will be closed when workers are on site and will be reopened for use during non-construction hours," the city says.

While work is underway, residents are encouraged to visit other dog-friendly parks, trails and beaches in the area. These include:

  • Mutrie Road Park (east end of 43rd Avenue and right turn onto Mutrie Road)
  • Mission Hill Park (3900 15th Ave.)
  • Becker Park (behind the Vernon Recreation Centre, near 39th Avenue)
  • Polson Park (2600 Highway 6)
  • Grey Canal Tail
  • Middleton Mountain Park and Trails
  • Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park pet beach
  • Ellison Provincial Park sandy (pet) beach

Spring freshet flooding in 2017, 2018 and 2020 moved substantial amounts of sediment, causing overbank flooding and infilling culverts along BX Creek, the city says.

The sediment pond is intended to manage the sediment deposition, significantly reducing pressure on key crossings and reducing the risk of flooding downstream.


Mysterious Blue Mask group showing up at locations around the North Okanagan

Who are those blue faces?

Who are those masked people?

They've caused more than a few puzzled stares and plenty of positive reactions on social media, but just who are the group of costumed people with big blue masks popping up at locations around the North Okanagan lately?

Posts in local Facebook groups Hell Yeah Vernon! and Vernon and Area Community Forum shared images of the group the last few days, wondering about the silent performers.

"So, was at Fintry Park today (and) came across these people. Are they a cult or a human art installation?" Chris McInroy asked on Thursday.

"Cool surprise at Kal Park," Anthony Carboni said earlier in the week, as the group was spotted emerging from the water.

The posts have generated more than 200 reactions and dozens of shares.

Most folks are charmed by the mysterious performers. They're puzzled, but love it.

Neither the Vernon Public Art Gallery nor Vernon Community Arts Centre claimed any knowledge of the maskers.

Turns out the Blue Mask group is an Indigenous performance art project about the Sylix Water People, according to tweets by the group Syilx Connection.

The group has visited Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park, Silver Star, Lumby, and Fintry.

Who knows where they'll show up next?

"What would water think if it could talk?" Syilx Connection asks on one of its posts.

"If water were a person and had these expressions after emerging from a lake, what would you say?"

The project is aimed at raising awareness of the Sylix people's traditional and spiritual connection to the water.

Vernon dog park injury has pet owner questioning safety at Marshall Fields

Dog suffers bad injury

A Lake Country woman is giving a heads up to other dog owners after her pet suffered a bad injury at a Vernon dog park.

Stefanie Miller says she took her two dogs to the off-leash park along the creek at Marshall Fields on Aug. 4, and that's when Izzie the Weimaraner stepped in what Miller believes was a marmot hole and broke her leg.

"The dogs were having the time of their lives ... it's an absolutely gorgeous place," says Miller.

"All of a sudden, Izzie went down howling."

Miller says the seven-year-old dog suffered a complicated break involving several bones in its right front wrist and to one of the long bones in its leg.

Miller immediately took her pet to the emergency veterinarian on duty, the leg was set in a cast with surgery to follow, then rehab.

All told, she is facing veterinary bills of about $10,000.

Miller says she is "barely affording it," but mostly wants to warn other pet owners to beware of the hazard.

She has reached out to the City of Vernon, and says "if they are providing a safe space for dogs, they should fill in the holes or whatever they need to do."

"I don't want anyone else to have this happen," she added.

Meanwhile, Izzie will be in a splint for three months following surgery that requires a bone graft and then another month of rehabilitation.

"She's quite uncomfortable," said Miller.

She said she was shocked to learn from another dog walker at the park that hers was the second dog that week to have fractured its leg.

"We are struggling to try to find the funds to support our beautiful otherwise healthy girl," she said.

"I do not want anyone else to suffer the same fate."

Cascadia Airways says entrance into Vernon market off to successful start

Cascadia takes flight

Cascadia Airways says its entrance into the Vernon market has been a success so far.

The airline began service out of Vernon Regional Airport on July 15.

Supervisor of customer service Alena Stolle says "thing have been going quite well."

Stolle says the new Vernon route is proving more successful than Penticton – "We're doing quite a bit of business out of Vernon," she said.

The airline offers daily afternoon flights out of Vernon to destinations in the Lower Mainland, including Vancouver, Pitt Meadows, Abbotsford, and Chilliwack.

Stolle says travel has mostly been for business purposes so far, but there have also been some "family visits."

The company uses six-seater PA31-350 Navajo Chieftain aircraft, and Stolle says flights have so far been about 50 per cent full.

"If we can fill the seats, we will definitely look at expanding service and adding another flight," she added.

"If the request is there, we will accommodate it."

Cascadia also flies to Tofino, Campbell River and offers private charters.

Power outages affecting thousands across Thompson, Okanagan, Shuswap

Outages across region

Power outages are reported across the Thompson-Okanagan after a strong windstorm blew through the region Thursday evening.

Outages reported across the region from Vernon to Kelowna, Lake Country, the Shuswap, Kamloops and Nicola Valley followed strong winds that brought trees down across the region.

BC Hydro is listing several outages in the North Okanagan as due to fallen trees across lines and downed wires.

Numerous others are listed as under investigation.

FortisBC is also listing eight smaller outages in the Kelowna area.

More than 20 separate power outages are currently being dealt with.

In total, more than 10,000 customers are without power.

In the Okanagan, BC Hydro lists 6,705 customers affected, and in the Thompson and Shuswap 3,405.

Outages are reported in a wide area affecting the east side of Vernon, the BX, and a large swath of Spallumcheen and Armstrong.

In the Shuswap, outages affect Anglemont, Magna Bay, Sorrento and Chase.

In the Thompson, the Valleyview and North Shore of Kamloops are affected, along with a small area near Knutsford.

There are also outages east and west of Merritt.

The outages all came between 5:30 and about 7 p.m. as strong winds blew through the region.

Click the map above to go to BC Hydro's live outage map.

Nomination packages now available for prospective candidates in Coldstream

Want to run for council?

Nomination packages are now available for prospective candidates in Coldstream's municipal election this fall.

Packages are available for pick-up at Municipal Hall or on the district website.

Qualified candidates must submit their completed nomination packages during the specified nomination period.

Key dates include:

  • Aug. 17 Free pre-election candidate workshop (Vernon Recreation Centre)
  • Aug. 30 Nomination period begins at 9 a.m.
  • Sept. 9 Nomination period ends at 4 p.m.
  • Sept. 9 Declaration of candidates

To be eligible, at the time of nomination, candidates must be:

  • 18 years of age or older on the day of voting
  • A Canadian citizen
  • A resident of British Columbia for at least six months prior to voting day
  • Not disqualified under the Local Government Act, or any other enactment, or by law from voting in a local election

Voters will elect a mayor and six councillors on Oct. 15.

Advance voting is available Oct. 5, 12 and 13 at council chambers in Municipal Hall.

On election day, voters can cast their ballots at Lavington Elementary School and Coldstream Elementary School, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Armstrong pharmacist makes boy 'monster spray' to make nighttime easier

Best way to scare monsters

A young Armstrong boy has some professional help in keeping away those scary monsters that lurk under the bed.

Mom Meg Pearson had nothing but gratitude for pharmacist Jason Buerfeind of Armstrong Pharmacy and Wellness Centre after he whipped up a batch of extra strength "Monster Spray" for her five-year-old son, Declan.

"Thank you endlessly for making my son a bottle and refill of monster spray. I appreciate you more than words can say," Pearson wrote on the Armstrong Community Information Facebook group.

"Spray one spray to bedroom once each night to scare off monsters," the label on the spray reads.

Photos of the placebo sleep aid tugged on the heartstrings of locals, with Pearson's post garnering over 500 reactions and dozens of comments.

Comments on the post range from "that is the coolest ever" to "that is so awesome."

Several other parents said they'd also soon be visiting Buerfeind.

The pharmacist replied: "Thanks so much meg for the appreciative post! And thanks to everyone else for the comments and support!

"You had such a great idea, there was no way I wouldn't make that up for you. Plus, I got to use up that expired 'sulfuric acid' that I didn't know how to dispose of because of 'safety concerns.' That's what I call a win-win lol. Just kidding – it's just distilled water with a bit of aromatic oil in it for a nice smell."

Buerfeind says to let him know if the mint or lavender scent works best for scaring off monsters.

Pacific Economic Development grant provides $300,000 towards Coldstream Station project

Feds give boost to Station

Coldstream Station has received a $300,000 boost from the federal government.

Harjit S. Sajjan, minister responsible for the Pacific Economic Development Agency, announced the grant Thursday, via the Canada Community Revitalization Fund.

Coldstream Station, under construction on Kalamalka Road, will be a central gathering area with access to the popular Okanagan Rail Trail, public amenities, tourism information, and commercial spaces.

"The project will reinvigorate community gatherings by providing a new venue for farmers markets, food vendors and local celebrations," the government says in a press release.

"Coldstream Station is going to provide a much needed gathering area to support the Okanagan Rail Trail and its many users. As the northern parking lot for the trail, it will provide the primary parking lot for users accessing the trail and also as the hub for those accessing other recreational amenities in our community. It will also facilitate community events and functions providing a safe, centralized space for our community," said Coldstream Mayor Jim Garlick.

Shared public spaces bring people together and stimulate local economies, Pacific Economic Development says.

"In Coldstream, as in so many places across Canada, the community is ready to welcome back residents and visitors alike."

Sajjan said: "Now it's time to invest in the shared public spaces that will safely bring people together and help communities grow and thrive well into the future."

The Canada Community Revitalization Fund will provide $500 million over two years to regional development agencies to invest in shared and inclusive public spaces.

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