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Veterans ride through Valley

Canadian war veterans mounted up and rode through Summerland and Oliver Sunday morning in an effort to help soldiers transition back into their communities.

Paul Nicholls, 46, began his cross-Canada trip April 13 at the B.C. legislature in Victoria. He plans to make it to Newfoundland by November, getting 700 veterans onto horses along the way. 

"The idea is that timely support during that time of transition when our troops are leaving the military can be life changing," Nicholls said. "We're hoping to create some discussion. That discussion will create awareness, and the awareness will create an atmosphere where we can have some change."

Nicholls, who began the Communities for Veterans Foundation, said the support has been inspiring. 

"We've had communities rally around us the whole way," he said. "There's no question that Canadians love their troops. It's my job to bring that awareness of who our troops are."

The idea came to him while standing in line buying his wife, Terri, a gift on Granville Island. 

"A woman recognized the crest on my jacket and gave me a big hug," Nicholls said. "She was crying. She was a survivor of the Bosnian war, and Canadian troops had gotten her out, got her food, got her aid, and she eventually found her way to Vancouver.

"She thanked me for my service and told me her story," Nicholls said. "I realized then that my efforts had been worthwhile – what we had done, the effort, the sacrifice, the hard work, the time away from home – it was worthwhile. We made a difference. 

"That's when I realized there's real power in a story and in a shared story, because it's coming from the heart."

Nicholls' wife runs a therapeutic horse riding program in Quesnel and helps veterans learn to ride so they can join Paul on horseback through the communities they're transitioning into. They share their stories with the community so people know who they are. 

Nicholls said raising awareness was important when they did the first ride in his own town of Quesnel. 

On that ride, they had a veteran of the Second World War, another man in his fifties and three veterans from Afghanistan all under 30 years old. None of them knew each other.

"These guys didn't know each other and they were living in a city of less than 22,000 people. I think that says something," he said. "What it tells you is that we have young veterans. They're young guys, and they're starting careers. They're not broken, shattered heroes."

Most people think of the 90-year-old from World War Two as the definition of a veteran, but there are many others that the public isn't necessarily aware of, Nicholls said. 

"There's also those other guys that sit quietly in the back of the room. Stoicism is a trait that serves you well in the military, but it's not that helpful when you're trying to transition. So that's my job and our job as Canadians, I believe, is to look after people in our communities, and that's our troops." 

The ride will be in Kelowna on Tuesday.





Park referendum approved

UPDATE SATURDAY, APRIL 25, 11 P.M.

Voters in Okanagan Falls and the Heritage Hills area have narrowly approved the borrowing of $950,000 to purchase parkland within the Okanagan Falls and District recreation service area.

Results of Saturday's referendum came in shortly before 10 p.m.

Of the 526 votes cast during advance polls and general voting 294 (55.9%) said yes while 232 (44.1%) said no.

The purchase of the Okanagan Falls property — located at 605 Willow Street, northeast of Christie Memorial Park — will provide for unbroken access along the Skaha Lake shoreline from Lion’s Park to Main Street.


Okanagan Falls and Heritage Hills residents are being asked to say yes on April 25 to allow the purchase of parkland in two communities.

“We have a unique opportunity to acquire a valuable piece of lakefront property for community use in Okanagan Falls and add a park property in Heritage Hills,” explained Commission chair Don Clark. 

“But we have to act now — especially in Okanagan Falls. If this property is sold to a private purchaser, we’ll likely lose this chance forever.”

The purchase of the Okanagan Falls property — located at 605 Willow Street, northeast of Christie Memorial Park — would provide for unbroken access along the Skaha Lake shoreline from Lion’s Park to Main Street.

"We want to have a walkway that takes you all the way along the waterfront, from our current park to the boat launch," said Clark. 

In Heritage Hills, the addition of $200,000 in funding would complement an existing $250,000 in dedicated parkland funds and the generous donation of property by local developer Johnny Aangtes.

“Heritage Hills has been without a park space for far too long. You just need a place to walk your pet or maybe you just want to take the kids to throw a ball and an open space where it's green and it's pleasant,” said Clark. “We can remedy that situation with a positive outcome on April 25."

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen is asking voters living within the Okanagan Falls & District Recreation Service Area to approve the borrowing of $950,000 to secure both properties. With the amount to be paid back over 20 years, that would cost the average homeowner about $32 a year — or less than $3 a month.

“We believe this is in the best interest of those living in the community today and for those living in the community 20 and 30 years from now,” Clark said. "I certainly expect it to be successful, I'm not hearing very many negative comments, but there's always going to be people that oppose anything you would do."

“We’re encouraging all voters living in the service area to vote yes on Saturday.”

Voting will be held Saturday, April 25, between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. at Okanagan Falls Elementary School, located at 1141 Cedar Street.

If the vote does not pass, the agreement to purchase the land will be negated and the property will be on the open market again. 

Voters looking for more information can visit www.okfalls.net and select the Parks Purchase link.



Highway 3 reopens

UPDATE 1:30 P.M. 

Hwy. 3 is expecting to open completely by 2 p.m., after a crash this morning closed the highway.

According to RCMP, at approximately 7:45 a.m., an eastbound truck crossed the double yellow centre line crashing head-on into a westbound vehicle.

Sgt. Barry Kennedy with Princeton RCMP says the two occupants of the westbound vehicle received minor injuries and were taken to hospital via ambulance.

The driver, and only occupant, of the eastbound vehicle received serious injuries and was air lifted to Kelowna General Hospital.

He was suffering from broken bones and internal injuries, his current condition is unknown.

Kennedy says the accident victims were fortunate that the first person on scene was a doctor, who happened to be driving on the highway.

The doctor was able to do a trauma assessment and help the patients until paramedics arrived.

A witness on the scene told Castanet the driver of the eastbound vehicle may have fallen asleep at the wheel.

Sgt. Kennedy says they are looking into that possibility, and the man's truck has been sent off for a mechanical inspection to make sure it was operating properly.

There is no indication drugs or alcohol were a factor.

RCMP are still on the scene and continue to investigate the accident.  


ORIGINAL

Hwy. 3, just east of the Hope-Princeton, is single-lane alternating after a two vehicle head on crash.

The crash, just before 8 a.m., occurred one kilometre west of Hedley. 

There are unconfirmed reports someone was air lifted to Kelowna General Hospital. 

The RCMP have not yet provided any details regarding the accident.

We will have more details as they become available.

For current traffic conditions and road closure information check out DriveBC.ca



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No answers after 13 years

This is the second in a series on unsolved murders in the South Okanagan


Early in the morning on July 16, 2002, the body of Mitchell Carl Jorgenson was located at the rear of the Salvation Army Thrift Store in the 300 block of Ellis Street in Penticton.

It was a Salvation Army worker who found him at around 8 a.m. that day and alerted the police.

At the time of his discovery, Jorgenson's face and head were brutally beaten and his body was covered with either a mattress or a blanket. It was believed he was sleeping when he was attacked.

The location served as a dropping off point for old furniture and other household items.

Jorgenson, 39, was believed to be a homeless man who had come from Kelowna to Penticton in the weeks leading up to his death.

It is also thought that he frequented the Oliver area prior to his death.

To this day, Jorgenson's death is being investigated as a homicide.

"The investigation is still open and it's maintained here at the Penticton RCMP general investigation section," said Const. Kelly Grant. "I have been the lead investigator for about a year, and it's ongoing."

The Penticton RCMP are requesting assistance from the public regarding the movements of Jorgenson prior to his death and/or any information surrounding the circumstances leading up to his death.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Penticton detachment at 250-492-4300 or CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-8477.



Hospital upgrades revealed

Penticton Regional Hospital's (PRH) is now home to a to a state-of-the-art portable X-ray machine that is the first of its kind in the Okanagan. 

Upgrades were completed in the hospital's three X-ray rooms of the digital imaging department.

The South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation raised $1.5 million in 2013 for Interior Health could update the X-ray department at PRH as well as create on-site student housing.

"We have had renovations to three of our X-ray rooms in the main X-ray department," said Shannon Carver, professional practice leader of diagnostic imaging for the South Okanagan. "We're very happy with these new rooms. It should reduce the wait times for patients because exams move more quickly." 

The new equipment also brings higher image resolution and exposes patients to a lower dose of radiation.

The whole Carestream system the hospital uses and the portable X-ray machine itself were designed by a Canadian X-ray tech. 

"He's not doing X-rays anymore," Carver said. 

"We got it all in a really timely fashion, we're one of the few hospitals in the province that's fully digitalized and we're very proud of this," said Janice Perrino, executive director of the SOSMF. "It's the way healthcare should be and Penticton Regional Hospital has it for our region. It's made possible by the donors and we're just incredibly thrilled."

The funds were jointly raised by the community and the Regional District of the South Okanagan, although the amount the RDOS contributed was not immediately available Friday. 

"To me the most important part is the fundraising," Perrino said. "That's your $20, your $100 and Summerland Healthcare Auxiliary put toward $300,000, Mr. and Mrs. Nodwell put in $250,000, that's what made it work. Every $20 that came forward made it happen."

Jobling House, a new student residence, was also revealed Friday. 

The factory-built facility, manufactured by Chaparral Industries in Kelowna was placed on site in late February and is now ready for its first occupants, whom arrive Sunday. 

It replaces an aging trailer near the hospital parking lot off of Government Street, which has served as a medical  student residence for the past 30 years. 

Lloyd and Lota Jobling donated $500,000 for the construction of the new six bedroom facility that has been decorated in a beach theme by Jennifer Connolly Interiors & Designs and Chrystal Nohr Design of Penticton. 

Mayor Andrew Jakubeit was pleased to see much needed healthcare improvements come to Penticton.

"I think you could argue that, in the past, Penticton has gotten leapfrogged over other hospital districts. So we're very thankful for Dan Ashton before when he was mayor and now as MLA for pushing really hard," Jakubeit said.

"The community has been lobbying and pushing really hard to make sure the province recognizes there's demand and need for hospital upgrades, be it equipment or the actual hospital or the patient care tower. We're very excited that it's finally coming forward." 

 



Archer takes aim at bylaw

A Penticton resident with a passion for archery would like to see more events focused on the sport in the city.

Rick Hamilton gave a presentation to council asking that draw bows be withdrawn from a bylaw that prohibits the discharge of firearms in the city.

"Archery is an Olympic sport and it's in the Canada Winter Games and B.C. Winter Games," he said. "But Penticton has this in their bylaw."

Hamilton, whose family competes in archery, says he's not promoting anyone just walking out and shooting a bow. Instead, he would like to see events held in a designated, controlled environment.

"It needs to be on private property where no one can be put at harm," he said. "What it allows for is for Penticton to host archery events, which is important with the B.C. Winter Games coming here, with a whole bunch of archers coming."

Hamilton, who says he has the backing of a lot of people in the community, believes such events will have a big economic impact.

"When you have 150 archers come to town, they are all going to stay in hotels, eat in restaurants and buy gas," he said. "Let's say you do a few of those a year ... there is an economic impact."

Other Okanagan communities already hold competitions, with Oliver recently having a championship that attracted 160 archers.This weekend, Hamilton is going to one in Kelowna.

After the presentation, council asked staff to investigate options to make some changes to the bylaw, suggested by Hamilton.

Over the next 30 days, the matter will come back to council, said Mayor Andrew Jakubeit.

"As long as safety concerns are addressed by user groups, I don't see why it couldn't be a permitted use in the city," he said.



Ogopogo: the legend

Recent rumblings of the Ogopogo lurking Okanagan Lake may have many wondering where the legend of the lake monster came from.

Castanet searched out a knowledge keeper from the Penticton Indian Band to learn its origins. 

The life's work of Richard Armstrong has been to carry on the traditional knowledge of his people.

Armstrong has worked at the En'owkin Centre in Penticton since the 1960s and shared some of that wisdom on Thursday. 

"Ogopogo is not from our language. I'm not even sure where that came from," he said.

The traditional word, as close as English can come to spelling it, is Nha-ha-it-kw.

The first part of the word, 'Nha-ha,' is a reference to a creature that is as close as possible to being referred to as sacred. The last part, 'it-kw,' refers to that creature being 'of the water.'

Armstrong said the creature is sacred in the sense it is recognized as "very special" in First Nations culture, brought into existence by the Creator to let people know how great He is. 

"He can create anything He wants to, like that. And we recognize the power of that kind of thing," said Armstrong.

In form, the creature of legend is said to take two shapes. 

"It depends on the people who see it and what the creature is doing. When it's hunting or feeding, it has a different shape than when it's just travelling," said Armstrong. "Our people have always recognized a serpent-like 50 to 60 footer as one of the shapes.

"When it's not travelling, it's scrunched up and it's not 50 to 60 feet long, but maybe 20 or 30 feet long. It's like, I don't want to say a turtle, but it scrunches up its body so it's not streamlined to swim fast, like when it needs to."

Armstrong said the head is always described as looking like a horse or a dog with a square nose; not like a snake or a dragon.  

"As far as its reality, our people to this day still know that it always existed. It was always there, we knew about it," Armstrong said. "Our people have always, since time immemorial, fed that beast." 

Every year, certain people take a boat out and drop meat into the lake. 

"It's not a spectator sport. It's been happening for hundreds and thousands of years – and it still happens to this day," he said. "That kind of information is something the public is not aware of, because we mostly get a sense of ridicule when we tell people that."

Armstrong said that according to the elders, the creature is not confined to Okanagan Lake. 

"It's not always in the lake, it can be different places – it can be any place," he said. "It can be in Vancouver or out on the ocean or one of the other lakes anywhere. 

"We've heard of other places that other people have talked about sightings of something like the Ogopogo in other lakes, and our people have always said there's nothing strange about that. That's normal because they can go anywhere they want." 

The story harkens back to legend times for First Nations people. 

"Our legends tell us that these lakes are connected with an underground conduit of sorts. They can go from this country, to any country, Peru, or China, underground. 

"To understand that, the analogy is that these conduits are like blood vessels. These conduits flow through the Earth like that." 

In response to people saying the Ogopogo is a giant sturgeon or other beast of some sort, Armstrong says that is the result of cultural limitations.

"There's been many different people trying to explain it away, simply because people don't want to believe that there's something like that. Their culture doesn't allow them to have that knowledge, and they have to try and explain it with things they know of, which are sturgeon or a pack of otters or something like that."

The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources says it does "not have any evidence on record of sturgeon in Okanagan Lake – only anecdotal reports."

A 2003 report titled Okanagan Region Fish Species at Risk similarly did not note any sturgeon in Okanagan Lake. 

Kyle Girgan of the Summerland Trout Hatchery says: "None have ever been documented, but it depends on who you talk to.”

"But our people just know of its existence, and we're not trying to explain it away. We don't have to explain it away, because we know it exists," Armstrong said. 

Armstrong said there is a vast amount of knowledge archived at the En'owkin Centre, but it is protected for First Nations people. 

"Whether it's family stories, historical knowledge, we have that agreement, that it can be kept in that archive. But you have to have ancestry to this land, to this people."



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