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West Kelowna couple stays in Mexico amid pandemic, living in van

Hunkering down in Mexico

Braden Taylor and Lyndsay Fillier are used to an on-the-road lifestyle, spending the last three years living in a camper-van. After deliberation, they have decided to stay on top of a mountain in Mexico while the pandemic continues.

The couple spends their summers working at The Cove Resort in West Kelowna in order to spend winter living abroad.

"We really love it, we love the people here, to us it's almost a second home," says Taylor. "The first time we crossed into Mexico we were very scared to be honest. You hear so many stories about the crime and corruption, but since we've come to Mexico and travelled around it seems like the opposite of that is true."

They travelled to Mexico in January for the second year in a row, with the intention of returning home in June. When they left on their journey, they did not realize what was in store for the world.

Since learning the seriousness of COVID-19, the pair has stocked up on food and water and are currently in an isolated area in between Mazatlan and Durango. 

"It seems to be pretty relaxed here in Mexico in terms of the coronavirus scare and when we were in more populated centres people didn't seem to be too concerned, but of course we're hearing a lot of concerns back home," says Fillier. 

While the federal government has urged Canadians to return from abroad before the boarders were closed, Taylor and Fillier decided it was best not to attempt to drive back and potentially get stuck at the border, exposing themselves to others. 

"We could have flown back but then we would have had to leave our van and we don't have a house back in Canada," says Taylor. "At this point we're so used to living the lifestyle that we are doing now that spending time in our van and finding a secluded place to camp."

They have spent almost a week in their van and have enough supplies for about 10 more days.

"We do think it's inevitable that the virus will spread a lot more here especially because people have been so relaxed,' said Fillier, explaining social distancing has not been adopted in Mexico.

"So we're not hugely concerned about the virus, although we are concerned that if panic starts to spread when it's time for us to go back and restock, there might be very little on the shelves."

The couple has also considered that if they do end up getting sick and the health care system in Mexico is seeing an influx of cases, they might not receive proper care.

Despite this, they are continuing to isolate themselves from others and are enjoying every day.

Their days are spent drinking coffee and eating breakfast and they enjoy reading, exercising, hiking and star gazing.

"It actually reminds us a lot of Kal Park (Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park) just outside of Vernon," says Taylor. "It's very dry, a lot of big pine trees - it really reminds us of being in the Okanagan to be honest with you."

Before the pandemic struck, the pair had planned to stay abroad until June — which they still plan to do. 

"Hopefully the Mexican-American border will be open by that time because right now we find ourselves in a situation where we've pretty much made our bed, and we have to lay in it, because the boarder is closed to all non-essential travel," says Fillier. 





Local country artist records a light-hearted song, 'Quarantine Blues'

Got the 'Quarantine Blues'?

Ben Klick

Looking for a pick-me-up? Local country artist Ben Klick is here for you. He wrote and recorded a song titled, “Quarantine Blues’ after returning from Nashville last week. 

Klick spends most of his winter down in Nashville for an annual trip to focus on everything from guitar playing to vocals, songwriting and recording new music. 

“I’ve been going to Nashville since 2014, recording records - I’ve done two EPs down there so far and this last trip was working towards new releases and records and things like that.”

The trip usually ends around mid-March, so returning home early due to the pandemic didn’t hinder any of his work. His dad made the flight down to help with the drive home.

The pair typically take their time coming home, but rushed this time as news of the pandemic became more serious. 

Because of the severity of the virus situation in Washington State, Ben and his dad crossed the North Dakota and Manitoba border on March 15 and made their way to West Kelowna by St. Patrick’s Day. 

“The eerie part... was the Sunday we actually crossed over the border, we crossed at one of the two busiest borders in the country, and it was basically my dad and I in my truck and one other car in front of us — that was it. It was basically a ghost town everywhere.”

He says it’s relieving to be home and be safe around family back in Canada.  

While in quarantine, Klick says he started to get inspired. 

“While I was on the treadmill, all of a sudden I started singing this melody and I didn’t know what it was, but I had this melody stuck in my head so I pulled out my phone and started recording.”

After grabbing his guitar he created the chorus and ‘Quarantine Blues’ was written within the hour. 

“An hour and half after it was recorded and then I spent the rest of the day thinking of creative ways...to put a smile on people’s faces during the times that are going on right now.”

This is undoubtedly the quickest he’s ever created a song from scratch to a video. 

“It really does go to show if you write about stuff that you’re currently dealing with or impacted you and you talk about your life, it makes it easier to write,” he laughed. 

He created this video because as much as the COVID-19 pandemic is a serious matter he wanted to put smiles on people’s faces.

“I didn’t update anybody about me coming home for the last couple of months, so I just wanted to put something out to say that I’m home safe and I also want to put a smile on people’s faces.”

He’s glad the positive message is being shared all over Canada in these dark times.



$440,000 to fence a dog park was deemed excessive by council

Council nixes dog fencing

The District of Peachland has put the brakes on a pair of long-awaited projects in order to finance a much-needed sewer project.

Council this week decided against borrowing nearly $800,000 for the two projects.

The paving of Thorn Road, with a price tag of $350,000 was cancelled with much regret from councillors.

But borrowing $440,000 to fence the Sanderson Park dog park was seen as extravagant.

“There isn’t a day in my lifetime that I’m going to agree to a $440,000 project to fence a dog park,” said Coun. Terry Condon.

"As I've said in previous meetings, I would be very reluctant to support $440,000 for fencing of a dog park. I don't see that as justifiable," said Coun. Keith Fielding."

Mayor Cindy Fortin had empathy for residents of Thorn Road, who she says have been asking for this paving project for quite some time.

But, not dog park fencing.

"I can't imagine spending $440,000 on dog park fencing right now," said Fortin.

She says she wanted the dog park, but not at that price tag.

The decision to postpone the two projects had more to do with giving the district more room to borrow for a sewer project and not due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The worldwide pandemic was brought up briefly by Coun. Pete Coolie, who suggested the municipality needs to find some efficiencies within its current 2020 budget.

He feels Peachland needs to lessen its tax impact on businesses and residents as they face uncertain futures.

The district has, for the time being, imposed a 2.8 per cent tax increase on residents.



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Moulding & More is building custom plexiglass barriers for essential service workers to stay protected

Locals build virus barriers

Sarita Patel

A West Kelowna business is helping those working in essential services by providing plexiglass barriers to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Mouldings & More will also be donating a portion of their profits to the Central Okanagan Food Bank. 

“Normally we’d create more of displays, sports displays, jewelry cases… so we’re already fabricating but we do it at a wholesale level," said Harold Loewen, owner and manager of Mouldings & More. "People don’t know about us, however when this came about we have the ability to do this product and I have a very talented staff that do a really good job so we put that into work.

The local company already has some of their new products out in the community.

“It’s actually made our clinic area look much neater and professional," said Shirley Finkensiep, clinic manager at Highroads Medical Clinics. "I think the patients are feeling safer, as well as the girls behind the counter."

She was also impressed with the timely manner in which the barriers were custom made and set-up. 

“We asked him to do it and off he went and there they were that afternoon. Then we realized we needed extra to be closed even more so we asked him to do more for us and he said it would be ready the next day but he was back the same day and we’re up and running.”

At the moment the high demand for these plexiglass barriers has led to a low inventory of materials.

“Four of my suppliers at this point have no product at all. It's right across Canada," Loewen said. "It’s because everybody is, especially in the major centres, doing this exact thing because they know it’s effective."

Mouldings & More is providing both fully installed or removal pieces for local businesses. 

“A lot of businesses don’t want you to screw holes and add big brackets so we made these ones to stand on their own," Loewen said. "If we get into larger ones like in grocery stores, they need more support because they’re larger and heavier so we support them with poles." 

Loewen says he’s noticed many people aren’t understanding the two-metre social-distancing rule because it’s a habit to be close to people. He believes these shields will help when people are encroaching on other’s space. 

“This is totally important because we are all concerned for each other’s health especially our patients and our staff as well,” says Finkensiep. 

She says they thought these plexiglass barriers were going to be temporary but they’ve now decided they’re going to keep them up permanently. 

Those interested can reach the local company at 250 769 1617 for more information.



Woman hosts 54th anniversary social distance tailgate for parents

Tailgate anniversary party

A West Kelowna woman got creative when looking for ways to give her parents a 54th anniversary celebration, so she decided to host a social distanced tailgate.

Terra Briden's parents Ernie and Myrna are celebrating their 54th wedding anniversary today amid the COVID-19 pandemic, making it nearly impossible to celebrate.

"We are unable to get together so I told them to meet me on the Westside in a parking lot," says Briden. "With the virus going on we don't know who's carrying it and we don't want to pass it to anybody. So I said come find us in the parking lot and they drove up and mom was all excited."

Briden and her children Regan and Evan greeted Ernie and Myrna to a tailgate celebration, social distancing themselves around a table in the middle of a parking lot with Starbucks and brownies.

"They did get toilet paper and hand sanitizer as an anniversary gift," laughs Briden. 



Conservation Officer's looking for person who shot bighorn sheep

Bighorn sheep shot dead

The B.C. Conservation Officer Service has issued a plea for the public's help to find out who illegally shot and killed a California Bighorn sheep ram along Westside Rd. near Shelter Cove.

Conservation officer Sgt. Ken Owens tells Castanet the ram was killed unlawfully along Westside Road on Friday March 20.

Conservation officers in the North Okanagan area are investigating the illegal killing which took place in the Shelter Cove area. 

"At 5 p.m. a motorist observed an injured ram adjacent to the road. Conservation officers attended the location, conducting a necropsy on the animal confirming the ram had been shot illegally," said Owens.    

The Westside road sheep herd consists of approximately 75 animals and the population has been supplemented with additional animals that were brought in from other locations to help maintain viable numbers.  Owens says, "there is no licenced harvest of Bighorn Sheep in this area."

Bighorn sheep are considered a “blue list” species in British Columbia which means they are a species of concern because of limited habitat options that keep their population low.    

Illegal kills of sheep have serious consequences for legal harvest, game viewing, and genetic quality of herds in the area.  

Conservation officers need your help in finding those responsible and are asking anyone with information related to this matter or any other wildlife crime to call the Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) hotline at 1-877-952-7277.



Deer hit on Drought Road leads to major clean up in the area of vehicle debris

Deer hit; lots of car debris

Castanet reader Lars Pace informed us that there was a large deer hit on Drought Hill heading down towards Peachland late Wednesday night. 

Big Lars says, "it was a mammoth of a deer."

He says he was driving home from getting groceries from the Westbank area when he noticed the deer and a car pulled to the side. 

"I made a safe U-turn and parked in front of him and he looked all shook up. There was so much debris all over the road because cars kept hitting the deer."

He thinks about four or five different cars that may have hit the deer by the time he was able to move the animal. 

RCMP and fire rescue were called to the scene. 

He just wanted the public to know because not only is that corner poorly lit but there was a lot of car debris causing it to be a driving hazard. 

Pace says the driver of the initial vehicle is a little shook-up but not injured. 



PSA: Water quality advisory issued for Lakeview System in West Kelowna

Water advisory in effect

The City of West Kelowna, in consultation with the Interior Health Authority, has issued a Water Quality Advisory for the Lakeview Water System, due to elevated turbidity levels in Rose Valley Reservoir. 

To determine if you're affected, residents with a utility bill number starting with 455 or you are asked to view the Water Quality Advisory Map.

Children, the elderly and those with weakened immunity must use water brought to a rolling boil for one minute or more or seek an alternative, safe source, for brushing teeth, drinking, making baby formula and ice, preparing food and beverages and washing fruits and vegetables.

A safe alternate source of water is available at the bulk filling station at Shannon Lake and Asquith Roads. The water is free throughout the Water Quality Advisory. 

You must bring clean bottles and hoses for filling. The station is open from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. tonight, and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m on Thursday. 

Residents are required to use gloves when filling bottles and maintain safe social distances of six-feet.

"The City’s Public Works Department is also performing high-velocity water main flushing in key areas of the system to help refresh the water and remove minor sediment within the pipes," stated in a release on Wednesday. 

"If you notice flushing is underway in your neighbourhood, you may experience short periods of low pressure and discoloured water. Any discoloration should be temporary. If discoloration occurs, then, once crews are finished flushing in your neighbourhood, residents should clear lines by turning on a cold tap and running it until the water runs clear."

The Water Quality Advisory will remain in effect until further notice, check the city's website for more information. 



Retailers like Walmart take steps to protect customers, workers

Walmart's social distancing

Another major retailer has taken steps to protect its customers and staff in the Okanagan.

Walmart has taken the concept of social distancing to the next level with signs and tape of the floor indicating how far apart customers are supposed to be.

Walmart has placed signs illustrating what proper social distancing should look like in addition to outlining what their hours look like.

Walmarts in the Okanagan are dedicating the first hour that they are open, 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. to seniors. Regular hours for everyone else remain in place, be sure to check with your local retailer as some stores are open until 11 p.m.

Tape has now been placed on the floors to indicate what six feet apart looks like and stores are diligently sanitizing automatic teller machines and wipes are offered to customers when they arrive at stores.

Supplies are restocked overnight but some items like toilet paper still sell out quickly. Shoppers are advised to shop early for the best selection.

As of Wednesday, the Walmart stores in Kelowna were not limiting the number of customers allowed into the store at any given time but that could change as the response to COVID-19 evolves.

Walmart in Kelowna is no longer accepting returns which were made after March 20, 2020. If you do have a return, it's best to call the store where you made the purchase to check if it's on the list of items not being accepted at this time.

Walmart has also placed limits on purchasing certain items like toilet paper and bottled water that are clearly marked with signs as well.

Other grocery stores in the Okanagan, including Superstore, Safeway, IGA and Save-On are taking similar measures. 



West Kelowna look at ways to help residents and businesses

City trying to help

As businesses close and employees find themselves laid off in massive numbers due to COVID-19, governments are looking at ways of softening the blow.

In West Kelowna, at the request of Coun. Rick deJong, staff are being asked to look at ways the city can assist local businesses and residents through these turbulent times and beyond.

His motion, tabled at the end of Tuesday's meeting, suggests council is just making official what is already being brainstormed within the walls of city hall.

DeJong says we'll all get through this crisis. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, we just don't know exactly when that will be.

"We need to make sure there are economic stimulus present that we are here to support local businesses and residents that we are here for them.

"Near-term, we need to survive. When we emerge, we need to rebuild the economy and move forward."

Coun. Doug Findlater says there are already people in the community in dire straits, with many more to come.

As the city is currently in the middle of its 2020 budget process, Findlater urged staff to look at ways the current tax increase could be lowered.

"There could be tax reductions, and I think that should be on the table. Our friends across the lake are looking at that," said Findlater.

"I think we should look at whether there is an area where we can come down from 4.8. This is affecting a lot of wage earners and down the line this is going to affect pension earners."

A report could be forthcoming as early as the next council meeting scheduled in two weeks.

Council did take one measure to, at least temporarily soften the economic blow by delaying a decision on increasing water rates.

Instead of adopting the third phase of water rate increases for residents of the Powers Creek and Rose Valley water systems, council decided to delay a decision until its next meeting.

There was talk around the table of deferring the increase for three months as residents struggle through COVID-19.

However, Coun. Jason Friesen said deferring until the summer would mean people would face a double payment.

"Because we don't know how long this will , we don't know what their situation will be. I don't know if deferring is the best option," he said.

The planned increases were put in place to help pay for construction of the Rose Valley Water Treatment Plant. The new rates, which increase between $13 and $17 per quarter, will raise about $250,000 every three months.

Coun. Findlater said he was OK with tinkering with the increase, but reminded council clean water delivery remains the city's top priority.

"We have $41 million applied to this, and the deadline is no longer endless," said Findlater.

"I don't want to see the whole project delayed. We won't get another chance the way we have now to move on this. If we have to tinker fine, but I don't think we want to throw the whole financing of the project into jeopardy."

A condition of the federal-provincial grant is the project must be complete by 2022. Construction is expected to begin later this year.



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