Kick off Spring Break in the sunshine in the South Okanagan

Plan Spring Break fun

"Four seasons of fun" is an ongoing collaboration between Castanet and Visit Penticton showcasing what Penticton has to offer all year round. Watch for it every Monday morning.

Spring Break is on the horizon, and there is plenty to do to enjoy the weather in the South Okanagan.

With warmer weather just around the corner, you can still enjoy some spring skiing at Apex Mountain Resort, the perfect place for singles, couples and families looking to enjoy the outdoors with a variety of activities to choose from.

Although the skating loop is closed for the season there’s still the option to ski, snowboard or even enjoy some snowshoeing in the area, or the ever-exhilarating Tim Hortons Tube Park.

Finish the day with some shopping at the Mountain Store or the General Store before wrapping up with dinner at the Gunbarrel Saloon.

Not far up the mountain you’ll find Nickel Plate Nordic Lodge, the perfect spot for cross country skiing and snowshoeing.

For more information on winter sports, visit apexresort.com and nickelplatenordic.org.

Ggolf courses are set to open and that includes the Penticton Golf and Country club. Open to the public, the 18-hole golf course is perfect for all skill levels and includes a restaurant on site for your after tee breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Be sure to check out their website at pentictongolf.ca for rates and more information.

Looking for something indoors? There’s also virtual golf, available at Okanagan Virtual Golf at 310 Main Street in Penticton.

With 800-plus courses to choose from, the space offers food, drinks, golf lessons and even leagues.

Be sure to check out their website at okanaganvirtualgolf.com.

Try your hand at rock climbing at Hoodoo Adventure Co, located at 131 Ellis Street in Penticton. Featuring Penticton’s first and only indoor climbing wall, Hoodoo Adventure offers punch passes, memberships and drop-in climbing (and much more - including rock climbing lessons at Skaha Bluffs!)

For more information, visit hoodooadventures.ca

Looking to unwind during your Spring Break? Try a staycation at the Penticton Lakeside Resort and Conference Centre or the Summerland Waterfront Resort, both of which offer picturesque views of Okanagan Lake and amenities such as spas and dining.

For more information, visit their websites to view package rates at pentictonlakesideresort.com and summerlandresorthotel.com

For many more Spring Break exciting ideas in Penticton, click here.


Apartment building on Penticton's Dynes Avenue sells for close to assessed value

Apartment building sold

A three-storey apartment building in Penticton recently sold for nearly $2.7 million, according to Western Investor.

The building at 952 Dynes Ave., which is home to 17 rental units, closed on Feb. 1 for $2.67 million, which was in line with its assessed value. Marcus & Millichap represented the vendor, while Dan Chatfield and Trevor Buchan of Colliers worked on behalf of the purchaser.

The price worked out to $157,059 per unit and a cap rate of 4.68% for the building, which was constructed in 1975.

Marcus & Millichap said the building offers plenty of potential for the new owner through renovations and the resetting of rents at market rates.

Penticton's outdoor skating rink will close for the season Sunday night

Last day for outdoor rink

For those wanting to go for one last skate, today is the last day Penticton's downtown outdoor rink will be open.

In a brief statement Sunday morning, Activate Penticton, the non-profit organization which operates the rink, says they'll be closing down the rink for the season at 9 p.m. Sunday.

“Activate wishes to take this opportunity to thank our volunteers for their hundreds of hours of labour maintaining the rink and for continuing to make this dream a reality,” Matt Hopkins of Activate said.

“Activate also wishes to thank the City of Penticton for their support.”

The rink, located adjacent to Penticton's City Hall, has operated free of charge throughout the winter, opening on Dec. 16.

Last year, the rink was able to operate until March 14. It first opened in February 2022.


Summerland rescue 'happy to take responsibility' for pregnant cats to allow for a warm, safe birth

Rescuing kittens from cold

Casey Richardson

The Critteraid Animal Sanctuary in Summerland has already taken in five pregnant mama cats, with kitten season just beginning.

Lori Huot-Stewart, president of Critteraid, said kitten season is filled with mixed emotions, so they might as well choose positivity and education.

"Instead of getting discouraged, we have named them the happy crew," she said, referencing the first round of kittens born.

"Mama Honey has delivered five beautiful babies. Honey Bee, Honeysuckle, Honey Pot, Honey Bun and Honey Dew."

The next mom is due any day.

Huot-Stewart said the cats are happy to have warmth, clean blankets, safe haven from the predators for her and her babies.

"And we are happy that the babies will not experience such harshness," she added. "We are happy to take the responsibility to give nutrition, build trust, give responsible medical to spay or neuter and microchip and then find them wonderful happy homes."

Next year she hopes there will be less suffering because more will help the cause and attempt to resource the solution to spay and neuter their cats first.

"There is no such thing as a free kitten. They all have a cost involved. If you can't afford food or basic medical, please reconsider until you can. Maybe you could foster to get your fix of having a companion."

Huot-Stewart said people can reach out for assistance or talk to them about older cats that have already been spayed and neutered.

"I thank you for all of your compassion and consideration to help these helpless babies from being born outside. When we work together, doing these little things, we make a difference."

To take a look at all the adoptable cats and kitties, visit critteraid.org

'Jerome was always unforgettable': Former Executive Director of Penticton's Discovery House passes, leaving a large legacy of lives saved

Mourning beloved advocate

"The more he helped people, the more involved he kept getting and the more people he kept helping...The best thing people can do to remember Jerome is to just carry that light forward."

Penticton is mourning the loss of a beloved community leader, remembered for his compassion, advocation for addiction recovery services and his unwavering support of those in need.

Jerome Abraham — known by many as the face of Discovery House for years — passed on Friday night, at age 49 after several years of living with cancer.

His sister, Jennifer Abraham, said while his cancer had gotten much worse, his spirit was always strong.

"The doctors in December had come to us and told us that they felt that at that time, he was going to pass. And Jerome simply said that day to the doctor, 'Well, I don't feel that way,'" she shared.

"And then it was basically miraculous. People at the Cancer Clinic and other doctors just said 'We can't even believe that he ever made it out of the hospital' and that was in January, so he'd beat all the odds."

Sadly, his cancer did continue to progress quite quickly in the last few weeks.

Jerome, who was the executive director of Penticton’s Discovery House for more than a decade, stepped back from his role last April due to worsening health.

Later that month, he was honoured with the Paul Harris Fellowship Award from the Penticton Sunrise Rotary Club for his extraordinary service to the community.

At that time, Jerome said that while it was very nice to be recognized, he also wanted to credit the work of everybody that lifted him up and help grow the society.

Always the humble, well-spoken leader of the recovery resource society, Jerome would often point to the combined efforts of his team for making things possible.

Working for the society with whom he credits helped save his own life, Jerome shared both from personal experience and from his work as a now-sober community member helping others leave addiction behind to advocate for change.

Throughout the growth of overdoses and the challenges of the opioid epidemic, Jerome would say what frustrated him throughout the years was that mental health and addiction challenges are still treated differently.

"He managed to be able to change his life around and just do a world of good for a lot of other people. He was just a really special individual and just kept giving back to other people. He had an immense amount of acceptance for people," Jennifer said.

Jennifer said seeing that growth in her brother was remarkable, especially after his struggle in and out of recovery periods for 17 years.

"When he finally got into the Discovery House, we were skeptical, we weren't exactly sure how that was going to work out because we had been down this path with him before. [Then] we started seeing him getting his chips year after year and putting the work in and having his birthdays," she said.

"Before you knew it, he wasn't just another bed at the recovery house. He was raising money for [the society] to buy another house and get more beds, and keep doing great things. Discovery House taught him how to love himself again."

As his life grew to be blessed with sons, Jennifer said she saw a further change in him.

"Now he understood what it was like for a father to return to their family. He really understood the impact of that, it was even more significant instead of just being somebody's son, or brother who was a user and the family going through that, it was truly being somebody's father and returning fathers to their families."

Even in his final weeks, Jerome was there for his son, Jennifer shared.

"When he went into December in the ICU, doing an Earthcare project with his son. He was very sick and in a lot of pain and he was still doing bottle drives," she said.

"He's raising money. He's giving money away. He's getting Christmas gifts and bills and dinners together for single moms with kids, and all the while he's doing these things, he's teaching his son how to do these things and how to be a good human."

Jennifer said she hopes moving forward, others will be inspired too.

"I keep telling people, whatever he did for you that made a difference, make sure you do that for someone else."

One of Jerome's happiest places was on a ski hill, snowboarding on fresh powder. He'd often send a selfie to family members of him with a giant grin on his face, snow-covered trees in the background.

That was the photo Discovery House chose to share in their post about Jerome's passing, noting that the world has lost a courageous and bright light.

"Our friend, Jerome, has completed this part of his journey, and his body has surrendered after several years of living with cancer. He tirelessly led our organization and touched the lives of countless individuals looking to break free from the shackles of addiction," they wrote.

"Jerome was a true warrior in his own recovery journey, in his guidance for those looking to better their lives, and in his fight to eliminate the stigma of addiction so prevalent in our society. Discovery House, our staff, our clients, and all of those who this organization has helped are better because of Jerome and his works. Thank you, Jerome. We love you brother, and we will do our best to give to others what you so generously gave to us."

Many messages remembering Jerome’s kindness, laughter, selflessness and wisdom have been shared since his passing. His presence will be missed.

What stood out for Jennifer about his character was his humour.

"He had always had a wonderful knack of joking with people to get another laugh or become great friends."

He was also quite the sales man since they were young.

"When we were young, he would go around our complex and pick people's flowers out of their own yard and then try and sell them to them," Jennifer said with a chuckle.

"We lived in another place when we were teenagers and he made this haunted house and sold tickets for it to all the neighbourhood kids. It wasn't a very good haunted house, but he made money and he managed to talk people into coming."

"I think the work at the Discovery House, turned him from a salesperson selling products to a guy who is now promoting saving lives."

Jennifer thanked the community for all the support they've shown to all of Jerome's family at this time.

"You can definitely tell how much somebody has touched the people in the world when stuff like this happens, because people just have come out in the hordes and droves," she said.

"Jerome was always unforgettable."

A celebration of life is being planned within the next month, with details being released later on.

Kiwanis Club of Penticton's Easter Hop Along registration opens

Easter hunt registration open

Registration has opened up for the third annual Penticton Easter Hop-Along.

The Kiwanis Club of Penticton is one again partnering up with the Penticton Safety Village to host the outdoor event for children in Elementary School and younger to attend.

Registered kiddos get to walk through the Safety Village and collect easter treats on March 30.

This year, the Kiwanis Club said the event will run for three hours from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. and attendees will require pre-registration for the available time slots.

There are just 440 tickets available.

"To control the flow, we still have time periods, but they will be in 15 minute increments. There are 40 tickets available in each 15 minute block. Each child who is attending will need one ticket. Adults accompanying do not count, nor do infants that are coming along with older children but not collecting treats! Tickets are limited to five tickets in an order to allow as many families to attend," the Kiwanis Club said.

Children need to be escorted by an adult and limited to their household only. In order to provide enough treats for all the attendees, please select one ticket for each child attending.

"You will receive a confirmation email with your time upon registration. A reminder email will be sent two days before the event and will include details on how to enter and exit the Safety Village."

Tickets are available on the Kiwanis Club website here.

Summerland distillery raising money for Purple Day with cocktail kits and spring themed cocktail flights

Themed sips for purple day

A small-batch artisan distillery at the north end of Summerland is partnering with the Center for Epilepsy & Seizure Education in British Columbia (ESEBC) for all of March.

In support of Purple Day, which is observed on March 26 as a global initiative to raise awareness about epilepsy, Controlled Entropy Distilling will be putting part of their proceeds towards to the non-profit organization.

"We have created a fun delicious purple -Blueberry Bergamot- cocktail kit that will be available at our distillery for the month of March with proceeds going to ESEBC," Controlled Entropy Distilling Owner Shea Bennett shared in a news release.

This will be followed up with an event on Saturday, March 30, where the distillery will be offering spring themed cocktail flights with proceeds that day also going to ESEBC.

"The kits and the flights will be featuring are just announced Award-Winning spirits!"

Both the distillery's Dry Hopped Gin and Toasted Coconut Vodka won a silver medal at the 2024 Canadian Artisan Spirit Competition.

Purple Day provides the opportunity to recognize and raise awareness of epilepsy, by wearing purple, hosting events and raising funds for the seizure disorder which affects one in 100 Canadians.

The idea of Purple Day was created in 2008 by nine-year-old Nova Scotia girl Cassidy Megan, who wanted to let others who also experience seizures know they aren't alone.

In 2008, the Epilepsy Association of Nova Scotia developed the idea into a national day, and in 2009 joined forces with The Anita Kaufmann Foundation to launch Purple Day internationally.

Privacy commissioner places limits on local's freedom of information requests to the District of Summerland

Local's FOI requests limited

A Summerland resident who has become known for his critiques of the municipality both online and in person at council meetings has been hit with limits on his Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act requests.

B.C.'s Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner determined that the District of Summerland's submission to disregard ten outstanding FOI requests will be allowed, finding them to "unreasonably interfere with the district’s operations."

The 20-page decision from adjudicator Celia Francis was published on Thursday.

The district sought relief under Section 43 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act from the respondent.

Brad Besler, while not named in the review, confirmed he is the individual involved.

Francis granted permission to the district to disregard the ten requests, along with instructing the district to address only one request at a time from the respondent and his family for a period of three years.

According to the decision, over the past three years, Besler submitted 79 Freedom of Information requests, with an additional 18 made by family members on his behalf. The adjudicator observed that the requests from family members closely mirrored the wording and structure of those from the Besler himself.

"Many of the 79 requests are multiple requests in one, so I find the actual number is much higher than 79, closer, in fact, to 180," Francis said in their decision.

Based on Francis' review, they determined that most of the 62 closed requests were worded and structured similarly to the requests at issue.

"They included requests for 'all' records about the following topics: the respondent, his property and his bylaw complaints; the respondent’s neighbour and his property (e.g., the respondent’s bylaw complaints about the neighbour’s use of his property, the neighbour’s fines, permits, business licences, development permits, communications with the RCMP and other neighbours, a named business, stop work order); the respondent and his contact with the RCMP and council; the firing of an employee; various contracts, development permits and business permits; communications among staff and councillors; a local pier; a local fence; bylaw fines; staff and councillors’ UBCM expenses."

Besler was previously involved in a lengthy feud that ended up in court with a neighbouring mushroom farm that stems back to 2019, when council retroactively granted a variance to the farm to legalize a number of buildings constructed within the property's setback.

The district submitted that nine of the ten requests at issue would generate almost 47,000 pages of responsive records and three video files.

They also submitted tables showing the number of hours and dollars the respondent’s requests have consumed to date, as compared to those of its other applicants.

"OIPC-related matters for 2021, 2022 and 2023 have taken 565 hours of staff time in the review and preparation of the resulting records, at a cost of $70,626 in staff time. By comparison, it said, all other applicants’ requests and OIPC-related matters, for the same three years, required 623 hours and $77,875."

The district said as a small municipality with a small staff, the volume of requests has left their staff member in charge of dealing with FOI request spending 100 per cent time of their time on those issues.

“Given the small size of the district’s staff and their responsibilities to respond to other applicants and to carry out many other duties, I am satisfied that responding to the 10 requests at issue would unreasonably interfere with the district’s operations,” Francis said.

Graham Statt, the district's chief administrative officer, said in an emailed statement that they appreciate the relief provided by the decision.

“The district works hard to meet its duties under the act and transparency is one of our core values. However, the adjudicator has confirmed these requests subject to the application were “systematic” and “excessively broad," Statt added.

"In 2023 alone, the district spent more than $100,000 to manage the volume of requests for information, excluding any other amounts for staff time and associated legal fees.”

In the fall of 2023, the district estimated the total cost this year of all FOI request work will be in the ballpark of $200,000, which equates roughly to a two per cent tax hike to citizens. Typical budgeting for FOI requests has historically been around $50,000.

Besler said in an email that he will be seeking a judicial review in BC Supreme Court to have the decision overturned.

"The adjudicator's reasons were based on false information and speculation, and I look forward to setting the record straight in court. The adjudicator completely ignored the District's previous bad faith with respect to FOI requests," Besler wrote.

"I am more motivated than ever to continue fighting for transparency and accountability in Summerland because the truth matters."

Highway 97 near Summerland reopen after blast work

Highway 97 reopens

UPDATE: 12:35

DriveBC is reporting that Highway 97 has now reopened to traffic.

ORIGINAL: 10:58 A.M.

Highway 97 is closed between Callan Road and Okanagan Lake Provincial Park north of Summerland for blasting on Saturday.

The road is expected to be closed from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. the highway will be closed to all traffic.

It will be opened as soon as it is safe to do so.

Travellers should expect intermittent 15-20 minute closures, in addition to the planned closures, as repair work goes on.

Penticton Golf and Country Club opening brings out players from across the valley

Mild temperatures bring golf

Casey Richardson

Once again the Penticton Golf & Country Club is one of the first courses to open in the Okanagan, with golfers hitting the green for the first time on Thursday.

The first week of March is the usual opening date for the course, with temperatures mild enough for people to get outside and enjoy. Slots are being filled up with golfers from across the valley."

According to Golf Course Superintendent Kyle Peterson, the decision to open depends on when the turf conditions are right.

“It's still a little early to have perfect conditions, but, we can work around them,” he added. “At the end of the day, when you have somewhat decent weather, the golfers want to play and we will do our best to facilitate that.”

Being at the valley bottom, there may be some mornings ahead where it's frosty at this time of year, which can sometimes delay the tee time start by an hour or two.

“It's so variable at this time of year. So, sometimes you might get a dusting of snow and that might stick for two days, or sometimes it might melt in a couple of hours and you can get out for a couple of hours in the afternoon.”

Due to the lack of precipitation this winter, the club will need to monitor the greens for necessary repairs.

“We didn't have a lot of snow cover when we had that really hard cold snap. We are definitely seeing some areas on the greens where we may have to overseed and they may not recover. Time will tell when the temperatures get a little bit warmer.”

The country club is open to the general public and members, inviting everyone to join throughout the season.

The club took Castanet out for a quick putting lesson, giving tips on how to read the green and what helps in accuracy.

Peterson said he encourages every skill level to come out and give the course a try, with options available for group or individual lessons. His biggest piece of advice is just to get out and play.

“Just get out, hit the ball around and do whatever makes you have fun, that's the name of the game. The second that you try and do too much and, you try to get better too fast is when you start to get frustrated,” he added.

Interest in golfing grew throughout the pandemic, as more people looked to find outdoor activities to do safely and Peterson said those numbers stuck around.

“We do have a big member group. So I don't think we've seen a decline at all in that respect. We're pretty full pretty much every day, even on the days when you don't think a lot of people are going to be golfing.”

The course is looking forward to another busy year ahead.

“The tee sheet is always full and the calendar is always full of tournaments and events. Every year it's jam-packed, we're getting people through here, and we're having fun.”

The golf course is open seven days a week, for more information on hours and tee times, visit the website here.

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