Vernon's next 100 years

From Forbes through to Thorlakson and Foord, Vernon and area has been blessed with visionaries for 150 years. Our magnificent North Okanagan communities were built on hard-knuckle blood, sweat and tears of a great many families.

Imagine Price Ellison wondering how to best plan a fledgling townsite that would be a regional hub within three decades and how that shaped the next 100 years. Rail and paddle wheelers were the key then. Back to the future, rail could re-emerge again if practically combined with an efficient traffic grid and also be friendlier to the environment.

Vernon/RDNO have been myopic and fumbled a couple of recent community building blocks. They could remedy both by leading like our forefathers did by planning a century hence.

1. The Rail Trail is good, it just needed an inside track easement for light commuter rail linking Salmon Arm/Sicamous to YLW, OUC, Orchard Park, Prospera Place et al. Add in a seasonal tourist train piggybacking on the Rocky Mountaineer success. 

2. Kin race track should have been resolved amicably instead of the heaps of money spent and years wasted on a legal battle. Could a brand new track and equestrian (Spruce Meadows) facilities at Okeefe Ranch not be constructed for about the same capital? Seems like a natural fit, combined with camping and golf next door. Two marginal entities would thrive with a whole bunch less animosity. Vernon/RDNO should show some horse sense and extend an olive branch to VES.

3. Fix transportation by making 27th Street north/32nd Street south one way. Through traffic gets the middle two lanes, the outsides turning left or right onto cross avenues, the major ones one way also possible. The 27th Polson overpass approach from Watson house is a big ticket.

Every time I write about the Stickle pickle, my buddy gets on the horn telling me to zip it as gravel sales would suffer. My retort is he isn't thinking big enough. I am friendly with the three main contractors that are making bank at Stickle. I played golf with two of them last week in Palm Springs. 

Save the destruction of a beautiful green space and $15 million in costs and channel that into an efficient transportation megaproject at 10 times the profitability. City Hall doesn't need to rely just on short-term tax revenues from behemoth corporate retirement "influences" that don't have Vernon's best interests.

4. To fix transportation, the Vernon Army Camp needs to be relocated. The ball diamonds can now go to Kin. Perhaps a public private partnership where Vernon's establishing pillar of the Coldstream Ranch swaps many hundred acres of King Edward lands for a hundred DND acres developing a high-tech commercial park? The BCDs would love a modern facility that has a tank course for their new $1.3 million TAP-V and a two-km sniper range. They and our SAR heroes (also need a base) could train in surroundings to protect us instead of some god forsaken desert. Time off spent ATV/snowmobiling, fishing, hunting, and Canadiana is complete. Heck, if DND was smart, it could become a big ticket resort for mudder races, biathalon, etc.

5. The Okanagan Indian Band redevelop its Kin Beach lands (again P3) for a marina/hotel/casino next to the airport and in the heart of world-class everything. There will be plenty of fish to fill their basket off the hillside.

Any of these issues will take a Herculean effort to convince three levels of government for the benefit of citizens. We best get started on the next 100 years.

Jay Langton, Vernon

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