Curlers will be showing off skills in Penticton this weekend

Curlers showing off skills

Curling enthusiasts in Penticton can check out the Skaha Ford Hot Shots Western Skills Competition this weekend.

On Saturday, March 2, the skills showcase will take place as part of The Western 2024 at the Penticton Curling Club.

"Competitors in the Bonspiel will take part in a four-shot challenge, with the winner taking home a Skaha Ford Auto Detail Package worth $300 and cool Ford swag," reads a press release from Skaha Ford.

"The event is open to all spectators for viewing."

It takes place between 4 and 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

"Come down and cheer on the curlers!"


Penticton reminding residents about traffic lights to give pedestrians, bikes a head start

Head start to cross the road

The City of Penticton wants the public to remember to watch for increased safety features at traffic signals downtown, aimed at keeping traffic, cyclists and pedestrians safe.

In a press release issued Friday, the city noted that the following safety measures are now in place downtown and will be at all signalized intersections in the coming years:

  • Advanced walk and bike signals (on bike routes) that provide an opportunity for those on foot or wheels to move forward across the road before vehicles get a green light.
  • Accessible pedestrian signals, which provide auditory, visual and tactile information for the visually impaired.
  • Pedestrian and cyclist signals are now automatic throughout the downtown core, with no need to press the button to activate the signal unless an audible cue is required.

"Signs are being updated to educate the public while adjusting to the safety measures," reads the press release.

"This initiative aligns with council priorities of supporting a safe and resilient community, enhancing and protecting the safety of all residents and visitors, plus proactively planning for a livable and accessible city."

Penticton council considering offering financial help for affordable housing projects to get off the ground

Help for affordable homes?

Penticton city council will soon discuss a potential pilot project that would see the city working with non-profits to help kickstart affordable housing projects.

At Tuesday's meeting, council will hear from city staff who recommend approving $100K be transferred from the Affordable Housing Amenity Contribution Reserve for the Affordable Housing Pilot Funding Program.

"We know the need for affordable housing is growing and one of the Official Community Plan-Housing Task Force recommendations was for the city to find new ways to support non-profit housing proponents to develop new units,” said Steven Collyer, the city’s housing and policy initiatives manager, in a press release issued Friday.

“This innovative pilot project would provide a way for us to partner with non-profits to unlock the potential for new housing, access senior government funding, and help meet council’s priority of attainable and accessible housing."

The pilot project, if approved, would last for one year and allow non-profits to to access funds from the reserve for " pre-development work to give them a better chance of success when accessing capital grants from senior levels of government."

The city currently estimates that between 172 and 286 additional subsidized housing units are needed by 2031, and right now, 162 individuals are waiting for non-market housing.

“One of the challenges we’ve heard from groups like 100 More Homes is that when applying for capital grants they need to ensure the projects are ‘shovel ready’ and that the architectural plans are in place to allow for immediate construction,” said Jamie Lloyd-Smith, the city’s social development specialist.

“We’re expecting more funding opportunities from senior levels of government this year, and funders are increasingly looking for projects that demonstrate strong partnerships. This pilot would allow our non-profits to be in a much stronger position to receive funding and build the needed housing.”

If the pilot project is green lit, it is anticipated that the $100K will "provide funding for approximately two high quality proposals based on anticipated costing for pre-development work."

"Lack of pre-development funding has been identified by 100 More Homes [local non-profit organization] partners as a challenge for non-profit housing providers to put their best foot forward with their capital grant applications to competitive provincial and federal funding streams," reads the staff report council will discuss Tuesday.

"The proposed funding pilot is an opportunity to unlock the potential of non-profit land for the affordable housing. Based on the outcomes from this one year pilot initiative, staff can incorporate learnings into future social housing targets for Penticton and finding strategic alignment in both initiatives."

Following the one-year proposed pilot, staff will collect feedback and present it to council for further contemplation of future options.


Penticton car dealership donates $5K to local children's causes

$5K for children's charities

Penticton's Bannister Automotive Group was recently pleased to present $5,000 to two local charities helping out kids in need.

They presented a $2.500 cheque each to the South Okanagan Children's Charity andthe Penticton Breakfast Club/Feedway Foundation.

"Year after year, we strive to be active participants in our community's well-being. Whether through financial contributions, dedicating our team's time, or leveraging our business resources, we aim to support events and charities that align with our values," said Bannister partner and general manager Julian Smallbone.

"This yearly tradition not only strengthens the culture within our stores but also allows us to play a role in uplifting our community. Through these collective efforts, we hope to make a meaningful impact on the lives of the children who need it most."

Penticton readying for massive 10-days of art, music, experiences and events

Get ready to Ignite the Arts

As March arrives, Penticton's Ignite the Arts Festival is gearing up for a week of music and art at nine downtown venues and more than 60 musical acts from around the nation and beyond.

From March 22 to 31, the third annual event will take over town, presented by the Penticton Art Gallery, Penticton Arts Council and many other community partners providing unique experiences.

The week of March 22 to 28 is designated the "Community Week," while the following weekend is the "Festival Weekend."

During Community Week, numerous events, exhibitions and intensive workshops will take place. Events include a city-wide Art Walk, an adult songwriting boot camp, a night of Indigenous storytelling, and much more.

Festival Weekend promises something for everyone, from folk to electronic to spoken word and hip hop, as well as live theatre, dance, clowns, workshops, exhibitions, and a good dose of programming for kids and music to get you dancing.

Tickets are $125 for the three days, which includes a $15 voucher for the merchandise booth or participating venues.

A full schedule for Community Week and Festival Weekendand links to tickets can be found online here.

'Help us help our community': South Okanagan Women in Need Society feeling donation crunch amid inflation

SOWINS: 'Help us help'

Casey Richardson

Donations for the South Okanagan Women in Need Society are sorely needed, as increased prices and inflation challenge supply for families in need.

SOWINS is partway through their second annual Have a Heart Radiothon, chosen by Bell Media once again as the recipient.

Liz Gomes, SOWINS executive director, said they cannot keep up with the demand on their services without these fundraisers.

"We're the only service in the South Okanagan that offers safe shelter and support services for women and children," she added.

Recently the transition house and counsellor waitlist have seen growing numbers.

"Our fundraisers go towards supplementing our programs. So for example, we often will use it towards hiring an additional counsellor to reduce wait times for people and just basically keeping up with the inflation of costs, making sure that the families that stay at our transition house have healthy nutritious foods and things like that," Gomes added.

"Food security is, of course, a big strain on everybody right now. So our donations help towards making sure we have some emergency food items for people to have some warm coats and toiletries, and just those kind of essentials for folks who even just dropped by here."

With fuel and food costs increasing, donations stretch thinner than before.

"We really do you need community support, to help us help our community members. I know that everyone knows someone who's been impacted by domestic violence — they may not know it — but they have been," Gomes said.

"Domestic violence, it impacts more than just the individual and their family. It really impacts the whole community. And it's important that our community supports them. Let them know they're not alone and help provide resources so that they can move forward in having a healthy safe life."

The goal for this year’s Have a Heart Radiothon is $25,000, but the team at SOWINS and Bell Media Group are hoping to beat it.

"We continue to hear how necessary we are, how needed we are in the community and that really makes me really happy that people know who we are, and know what we do. Our goal is that everybody knows what SOWINS does."

With years working at SOWINS herself, Gomes said seeing the children they have helped now as young adults, having their own young families and leading healthy productive lives is really, really rewarding.

"It's nice to hear those stories of success and we know that everyone's success looks different and we're here to support them throughout their journey and where they are and help them as best we can," she added.

Join SOWINS on Friday, March 8 — International Women’s Day — at Cherry Lane Shopping Centre, where they will be accepting donations from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Anyone who wishes to donate can also do so online here. Right now, donations will be doubled.

Summerland museum shares brief history of 'Ogopogo' legend beginnings and what can be learned

'Ogopogo' legend a lesson

The Summerland Museum & Archives Society shared a look back at the 'Ogopogo' this week, and how the traditional Syilx custom was misunderstood to become monster of Lake Okanagan.

"Prompted by misinterpretations of Indigenous legends, early settlers to the Okanagan Valley began to describe encounters with a gargantuan lake serpent," the museum shared in their post.

According to the museum, back in 1872 a local author wrote of seeing an enormous snake undulating across the lake, and similar 'sightings' were reported over the succeeding years.

"In the 1980s, the mania reached new heights when the region’s tourist association offered $1mil for proof of the creature’s existence. The environmental group Greenpeace even listed the creature as an endangered species not to be harmed or captured."

The museum shared the picture of the postcard of 'Ogopogo', as it encapsulates the public fascination with the monster of Lake Okanagan.

But the myth of the Ogopogo originated from misunderstandings and misconceptions of traditional Sylix customs.

The 'monster' of the Okanagan is not really a monster but a spirit, and it is not called Ogopogo but Nxaxaitk. The English spelling for the creature in Syilx is N’ha-a-itk.

"The name tells us a lot about what the creature actually is. When broken down and translated to English, the “N” means inside, and “xa” means sacred, so “xaxa” means very sacred, and “itk” means water, according to Elder and knowledge holder Yamxwa, Marlene Squakin. So the name literally means "There's a sacred being in the water," the museum said.

Oral stories of the spirit share that N’ha-a-itk takes care of the water in the Okanagan Lake and the water systems of the Okanagan Nation.

"While the Ogopogo has been portrayed by settler folklore as a lake demon, N’ha-a-itk is sacred to the Sylix," the museum added.

"For too long, the oral traditions of the Sylix have been silenced. Maybe now we should be focusing our time on listening to Indigenous groups and gaining an understanding of their culture and traditions, instead of chasing 'sightings' of a mythical creature."

The museum encouraged people to learn more information about Sylix culture, and to see a beautiful artwork portraying the legend of N’ha-a-itk at Sncewips Heritage Museum and Gift Store.

The Summerland Museum & Archives Society shares photos and information from their archives every week for Throwback Thursday on their social media, which can be found online here.

Penticton’s leash-optional pilot program launching for March

Pilot off-leash program starts

A leash-optional pilot program will be launching on Friday at specific City of Penticton parks.

Dog walkers and park users are encouraged to share their experiences over the next six months as the city gathers feedback to help determine whether these leash-optional locations become permanent.

Council gave the go-ahead for the trial period, following successful lobbying by a citizen group concerned with the lack of green dog-friendly spaces in the city.

The five parks chosen for the six-month trial period include:

  • Riverside Park
  • Okanagan Lake Park
  • Skaha Park Main
  • Skaha Park East
  • 1900 Penticton Ave (Entrance to Water Treatment Plant)

“We will be collecting feedback from each of the five locations to determine what works – and what doesn’t,” Ysabel Contreras, Parks Planning and Capital Project Coordinator said in a press release.

Park users can share their experiences by scanning a QR code at the selected park, or by filling out a feedback form online at shapeyourcitypenticton.ca.

Detailed maps of the section dogs may be off-leash are available at penticton.ca/dog-parks or on the project page at shapeyourcitypenticton.ca.

Tips for dog owners that choose to go off-leash in the trial spaces include:

  • Have your dog within sight and under verbal control at all times
  • Pick up your dog’s waste
  • Stop your dog from running into or jumping up on people
  • Have current dog licence tags
  • Not have more than 2 dogs per person

Feedback will be collected until Saturday, Aug. 31, which is also when the pilot project wraps up.

"As a reminder, city staff will be monitoring feedback throughout the pilot project and may make adjustments to the availability of the off-leash areas at any time," the city said.

"After August 31, dogs must be leashed in the designated areas until city council decides whether the leash-optional spaces become permanent."

Estimated 59% per cent of rockslide clearance mitigation work on Hwy 97 north of Summerland is complete

59% of rockslide work done

After a full four days straight of blast work this past weekend on the major rockslide above Highway 97 north of Summerland, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure reports roughly 59 per cent of the rock estimated needed to be cleared has been dealt with.

The section of Highway 97 was first closed on Aug. 28, 2023, after a significant rockslide. It was reopened to single-lane alternating traffic on Sept. 11 and two lanes of traffic on Sept. 21 after a 150-metre-long berm was built.

Twice-weekly highway closures for blasting have continued to occur as crews work to stabilize the rockslide site.

In a statement to Castanet this week, the ministry said that to date, the project has removed approximately 35,500 cubic metres of rock and overburden.

When Steve Sirett, executive director of the ministry's Southern Interior Highways and Regional Services division spoke to Castanet in October, he estimated that 60,000 cubic metres of material in total would need to be removed.

Castanet asked this week if that estimation still stands true, which MoTI said via email that the "estimate has not changed. The ministry expects 60,000 cubic meters of material will need to be removed."

The 35,500 cubic metres of matter removed to date amounts to roughly 59 per cent of the total estimated removal needs.

Work to stabilize the rockslide site on Highway 97 north of Summerland is ongoing.

MoTI said the closures were required over four consecutive days this past weekend to enable rock scaling and blasting to safely remove a specific unstable area of rock directly above where the August 2023 rockfall occurred.

"The combination of blasting and rock scaling was carried out to make the area safe and prepare the site for upcoming stabilization works above the highway."

The ministry has yet to share a timeline for the completion of the project and full four lane re-opening, but did state they are developing a plan for long-term stabilization measures and anticipates that more information about upcoming work, including a spring schedule, will be available later in March.

When Erik Lachmuth gave an update on the work to the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen at the start of February, as a delegate from MoTI, he said the timeline for completion is still in a period of months, not weeks.

Highway 97 will be closed to all traffic for blasting this weekend on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

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

MoTI said closures are posted on DriveBC.ca at least 24 hours in advance.

Penticton expecting to see 5,000 visitors for CSSHL Western Championships

Visitor bump for hockey

Penticton may be a bit busier in the coming days, as more than 5,000 visitors from throughout North America are expected to arrive for Canadian Sport Hockey League (CSSHL) Western Championships.

Running from March 4-17, 96 teams will be coming to the city to show off their skills.

“As part of the City’s priority to support a vibrant and connected community, we’ve been working hard to make Penticton a year-round destination, and this event will provide a significant economic boost to the community during the quieter winter months. It’s good news for those in the tourist trade and it’s good news for hockey fans,” Mayor Julius Bloomfield said in a news release.

This event marks the first year of a 10-year agreement signed between the CSSHL and its partners including Okanagan Hockey Group, OVG360, Travel Penticton and the City of Penticton.

The city said the annual economic impact of each event is estimated to be more than $3.3 million, totalling close to $40 million during the length of the contract.

The public is encouraged to come out and watch the promising young players in some competitive games.

Also, the Canucks Young Stars will return to Penticton later this year.

Teams from B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Idaho and Washington will compete next week at the South Okanagan Events Centre Complex.

Tickets are available to be purchased online at www.valleyfirsttix.com or in person at the Valley First Box Office at the South Okanagan Events Centre,

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