All signs don't point to Oyama
Aug 27, 2013 / 10:03 am
The newest stretch of Highway 97 opened on Aug. 16, but it took over a week for any signs to be erected along the route and there is still nothing that identifies where the municipality of Oyama is, or how to get there.
“Signage is 100 per cent a provincial responsibility,” says Ryan Roycroft, Economic Development Manager with the District of Lake Country.
“The municipality really only plays a lobbying role in the process. But we’ve heard loud and clear that residents don’t find the current situation acceptable.”
The new road completely bypasses Oyama, as motorists climb into the bluffs along a nine kilometre stretch of road high above the municipality and its businesses. The views are often spectacular, but the directions and signage are second-rate.
“The Ministry is very reluctant to sign for communities within communities,” says Roycroft, adding the province prefers to acknowledge incorporated communities.
“Oyama has an identity and more to the point, it means something to a lot of people. Even if only as a sort of reference point for vehicles, businesses and travelers; so we’re pressing the province to acknowledge that in some way.”
The small community finds itself in a unique situation, as one of four wards in the District of Lake Country, and therefore not its own incorporated municipality. Although it has been a challenge, they are still optimistic the province will make some concessions.
The Ministry of Transportation say they’re working with the District to come up with a resolution, but at this time, Oyama is seen as a community within a community.
“If we were to sign for Oyama, that would be setting precedence for all the other communities within, such as Winfield, Okanagan Centre and Carr’s Landing,” explains Scott Mckenzie, project management technician with the Ministry of Highways.
He says a total of five signs have already been, or will be erected by Tuesday at the north end of the highway and the only signs that currently identify Oyama have been grandfathered in before Lake Country ever became a municipality.
Three of the signs were put up over the weekend, with the final two expected to be finished on Monday. The signs were not immediately put up following the official opening of the highway because that would have created ‘driver confusion’ with the older sings that will now be taken down.
While McKenzie acknowledges that some Oyama businesses have already contacted the Ministry with their grievances, each sign had been reviewed with the District of Lake Country prior to implementation. However, now, both sides are working to accommodate the businesses that may be experiencing a drop in customers.
Roycroft also notes the District of Lake Country has seen a number of complaints, and estimates he alone has dealt with or heard of at least two dozen.
“To the Ministry’s credit, they’re listening to our concerns. Of course they have their own very long and amazingly elaborate list of protocols and polices, (but) a situation like this doesn’t really fit into any boxes that they’ve dealt with.”
Since the new span of highway joins the older parts of Highway 97, the former stretch of road that leads through Oyama has been renamed as the Pelmewash Parkway, which Mckenzie says has already been signed alongside the road.
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