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Still plans for sternwheeler

Penticton Mayor Andrew Jakubeit is hopeful that plans to develop the land around the SS Sicamous still move ahead, despite news this week that grant funding for another project fell through.

Council learned at a meeting this week that grant money in the amount of $2.4 million would not be coming for the downtown revitalization project, meaning alternative funds would need to be used.

The ramifications of this are a reduced ability to undertake other projects such as the SS Sicamous master plan project and facility master plan projects, according to staff.

"Hopefully not getting grants for the downtown project won't impact continuing the SS Sicamous plans," said Jakubeit. "The actual work would be part of the 2017 budget deliberations and there might be grant funding come available or there could be a surplus from this year's projects."

The SS Sicamous project is part of waterfront enhancement, which along with downtown revitalization is a strategic priority for the city.

On Feb. 1, the council approved finalizing the detail design for the first phase of the plan, which includes use of a timber board walk for the jetty walkway surface, placing benches on the jetty, use of a heritage theme for lighting and street furniture and designing the end of the jetty to support future development initiatives.

The mayor said he likes the idea of work on the downtown and waterfront being done alternate years, and if funding is available next year that could happen.

"Personally I would like to see working on the downtown one year and the waterfront the next, and going back and forth to improve the amenities  and infrastructure to where we get to a comfort level," he said. "And then working on other infrastructure concerns and opportunities in the city."

Jim Cooper, president of the SS Sicamous Marine Heritage Society, said they are disappointed that the previously approved SS Sicamous park plan has apparently been delayed.

"We have been looking forward to this project going forward. However we are also fully aware of the financial realities that the city is dealing with and are confident that the project will get done," he said. "After all  Rome wasn't built in a day."

Nor will the delay stop the society from continuing with projects they have underway and planned.

"For example, we have almost completed construction of a lift/elevator that will allow disabled access to the main deck of the ship; stay tuned for the ribbon cutting on this project," said Cooper. "We are also adding a new event this year where we will be co-hosting an antique boat show with the Okanagan Antique and Classic Boat Society in the park."

He further stated that the society has an excellent working relationship with both staff and elected officials at city hall and will continue to work with them to advance the SS Sicamous Park master plan.

Label business thriving

Corks are popping at a Penticton company that manufactures wine and spirits labels.

Okanagan Label & Print on Dawson Avenue recently added a second printing press.

"It is probably one of the fastest offset label presses in North America," said owner James Parker. "It means we will double in size and staff and bring in approximately $7 million in sales."

Parker has been in business in Penticton for eight years, recently moving from a former location on Brunswick Street to Dawson.

The company only manufactures alcohol labels and does about 90 per cent of the Okanagan wine, spirits and cider labels. They also do labels for Washington state and the West Indies, where they do rum labels.

"It's kind of uncommon you find an operation like this in a small community like Penticton. Traditionally they are in larger alcohol hubs, and wineries used to have to order their labels from Napa or Ontario," said Parker. "So we are serving local. The company's philosophy is we are here to serve the alcohol industry of the Columbia Basin."

The state of the art Rotatek Brava label press was ordered two years ago, to keep up with demand – and just arrived in January.

With the new press, the primary goal is to serve the medium to large wineries, going from 200,000 labels annually to 25 million, said Parker.

Even though the company is growing, its philosophy won't change, according to the owner.

"Even though we are probably more advanced in technology than most businesses you would find in a smaller community like this, we kind of go backwards in philosophy here," he said. "We don't have a receptionist, everyone runs for the phone, and we don't have voice mail. You get a live person when you phone in."

Board waffles on trail

The Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen board revisited the issue of a lakeside trail between Summerland and Penticton this week.

After deciding at a previous meeting, not to participate in funding a master plan for a Summerland-Penticton multi-use trail, the board decided to hold off on making a final decision on the matter

"RDOS directors and staff, the Penticton mayor and councillors and MLA Dan Ashton had a meeting with the Trail of the Okanagans group, who are supporting this, last week, and Ashton was saying we don't understand what the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure might do on this road, so it's a bit premature for the RDOS to make a decision," said RDOS director Michael Brydon.

Brydon added that two cars have gone into the lake recently in the area and that highways typically puts resources on dangerous routes.

The original funding request came out of a Jan. 8 meeting convened by the province and attended by RDOS, Summerland and Penticton representatives.

In 2015, the province unveiled a 1.3-kilometre trail along Okanagan Lake from lower Summerland to Trout Creek. The meeting discussed moving forward with further work on the trail.

The province proposed a master plan gathering cost, environmental, routing and other details. Funding and construction would follow at a later date.

The province also made it clear it sees the project as a four-way partnership.

The cost of the master plan is estimated at $110,000, with the RDOS portion being $27,500.

The board previously decided not to go ahead, as many directors see the Kettle Valley Railway Trail, as more of a priority.

Brydon said they will now let Ashton take the matter back to Victoria and work on it for a bit, before making a final decision.


Seedy Saturdays

The gardening season in the South Okanagan unofficially kicks off this month, with Seedy Saturday events.

Last weekend, hundreds attended an event in Naramata, and this Saturday the public is invited to the Grist Mill and Gardens in Keremeos.

"We have held it here on and off for the last 26 years, and the purpose is to share seeds, information and community," said Chris Mathieson, general manager of the Grist Mill.

A former head gardener at the Grist Mill founded Seedy Saturdays, with the first held at VanDusen Botanical Garden in Vancouver, said Mathieson.

Since then, they have been held all across Canada, with more than 100 at this time of year.

The Saturday event in Keremeos will share information while the public can also go to a big table, where anyone with seeds from last year can swap their seeds.

Mathieson said they wil be making an announcement as well about a heritage seed saving program.

He believes the events continue to grow in popularity for a host of reasons.

"If you get seeds locally they are going to grow well in this area and you are going to get a more interesting variety than you ever get in the store," he said. "It's also definitely less expensive to grow your own, but you do have to put the effort in."

The Keremeos Seedy Saturday is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is by donation, with partial proceeds going to Seeds of Diversity.

The 12th annual Seedy Saturday Penticton is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 20, at the Okanagan College, Penticton campus.

It will offer an organic seed and plant sale and swap. There will also be produce, honey and sustainable living products, as well as free workshops and parking.

Oliver's Seedy Sunday will be held at the Community Centre, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., on Feb. 28.

For more information on Seedy Saturdays across Canada, go here.

Teen injured at intersection

A teen was seriously injured, after being struck by a vehicle, Thursday evening in Penticton.

According to the Penticton RCMP, officers responded to a motor vehicle accident involving a 2012 Dodge pickup and a pedestrian at the intersection of Main Street and Industrial Avenue at 6:13 p.m.

It is believed that the 14-year-old male was riding a skateboard in the crosswalk at the time he was struck.  

The truck that hit him was making a left turn from Main Street onto Industrial Avenue at the time.

The teen suffered serious head injuries and was airlifted to Kelowna General Hospital. 

The 33-year-old male driver of the pickup truck was not injured. 

Penticton Municipal Traffic members and Southeast District Traffic Services Reconstructionist attended and are continuing with the investigation.

Ready for the Challenge

Valley First Credit Union is continuing its support of the Challenge Penticton triathlon.

Valley First is the official volunteer sponsor for the 2016 event.

This year’s triathlon encompasses a five-day multi-sport festival and culminates with the Canadian National Long Course Championships on Aug. 28. It's slated to attract a strong field of elite athletes and amateurs from Canada and around the world.

Close to 1,500 volunteers will be required to ensure the event goes off without a hitch.

“Renewing our partnership with Challenge Penticton represents a real opportunity for Valley First to once again be part of a fantastic and growing event while furthering our commitment to building and strengthening the communities we serve," said president Paulette Rennie.

We know that the success of these community events relies on those important people who put their hand up. Sponsoring the volunteers, including the Valley First Volunteer Appreciation dinner, is the best way for us to show our support for a race that is such a vital part of the South Okanagan identity and economy.”

Challenge Penticton owner and race director Michael Brown said the new format will be run across a single distance – the world long-course championship distance of a three-kilometre swim, 120-km bike and 30-km run.

"We’ve made some changes to Challenge Penticton and set it up to once again make the South Okanagan Canada’s No. 1 multi-sport destination,” he said.

"These races simply couldn’t happen without the support of volunteers.”

In addition to the team and individual long-course race, the event will also incorporate the Canadian cross-triathlon, duathlon and aquathon championships.

Each of the four national championships will act as a qualifying event for the respective world championship, which will be held in 2017 in Penticton.

For more information, go to challenge-penticton.com.

Waiting for refugees

A group hoping to bring Syrian refugee families to Naramata continues to await word on when they might arrive.

Laura Gray, spokeswoman for the Naramata Community Syrian Refugee Initiative, said the group has been informed there is a new federal Community Partnership Settlement Plan in place for relocating refugees into smaller communities across Canada. 

In a conversation last week with Chris Friesen, the director of settlement services in B.C., Gray asked when government-assisted refugees could be expected to be relocated out of Metro Vancouver into communities, such as Naramata.

"He said there was a process in place to identify interest and assess services and support in many communities," said Gray. "And he planned to travel soon to Kamloops, Vernon, Kelowna, Penticton, the South Okanagan and also the West Kootenays to meet and assess readiness to receive government assisted refugees."

Gray said Friesen has also been made aware of the work the group has done to bring families to the community.

That work, underway since late last year, includes preparing housing at the Naramata Centre.

Grey points to the more than 100 volunteers in the community, the proximity of Naramata Elementary School, bus support to Penticton for middle and high school, local volunteer support with English conversation groups, transportation and shopping, Interior Health’s readiness plan and linkage to South Okanagan Immigrant and Community Services, which provides immigrant support services.

"Chris Friesen is aware that we have two smaller, two-bedroom units ready to receive, and one two-bedroom home ready to receive and will shortly have the larger home ready," said Gray. "The total number of persons who could be comfortably accommodated in Naramata Centre properties could be 22 persons or more depending on infants/children. 

Friesen stated the process will still take some time to ensure that government assisted refugees are sent to appropriate communities. said Gray.

As as a result, she suggested that Naramata receive families who are still living in hotel rooms without cooking facilities.

"This metro Vancouver housing issue has prevented more refugees from arriving into Vancouver," said Gray. "I offered to provide photos or video of the housing offered by the Naramata Centre, which was declined for now." 

"We wait, knowing there are other communities across Canada, also working hard to receive Syrian families into their new lives in Canada," said Gray.

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