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Penticton  

Detour dangerous, private

Hundreds of drivers seeking a way around the Highway 97 closure near Summerland Tuesday evening ended up trying their luck through an unmaintained Penticton Indian Band back road, causing alarm and concern from some band members about safety. 

Soon after a fatal crash closed the highway and reports indicated it would be hours before it reopened, posts began popping up on social media recommending the PIB route, without much more information than a highlighted road on a Google Maps screenshot.

"What was frustrating was the lack of knowledge of the area and the conditions that the roads were in," said PIB spokesperson Dawn Russell. "Putting public safety first over convenience was at the forefront of the minds of our membership. There were large vehicles on that road that did not belong there."

Shingle Creek Road connects the Penticton Indian Band west of Highway 97 to Summerland, and is very rugged at many points. Flooding in the past two years have further deteriorated road conditions. 

"The terrain is crazy up there. People were putting themselves in unnecessary risk, and that was the most concerning for our members. They didn't know the risks before travelling the road, they just took the chance that they could get home a couple hours earlier, and for some of the people it didn't work out that way," Russell said. 

There is also the fact that the road is private property. Russell said the PIB understood there was a need for access due to the lengthy highway closure, and chose to allow people through rather than handing out fines. All they ask is that drivers be safe when they use the road. 

"I didn't see any other farmers opening up their roads or orchardists saying 'Hey, come this way,'" Russell said. "Don't think that because we allowed you to use it once that it's yours forever."

The PIB met with representatives from the District of Summerland Wednesday to discuss how the two government agencies could work together in future instances like this one, especially since much of Shingle Creek Road doesn't have cell coverage in case of emergencies. 

"That poses in itself a risk, especially when trying to get first responders there," Russell said. "You can't dial 9-1-1 in case of an accident or an overturned vehicle." 

The bottom line for Russell is public awareness about what a driver is getting into when they try to take that road. 

"We just urge people to use caution, it's an unknown and unmaintained road for most people."



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