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Update on locking up nature

Do you remember my recent post on “locking up nature“?

It was pointed out to me by a reader that perhaps there is a reason why locked gates were set up at either end of the lovely pathway next to one of Penticton’s little wild spots in the midst of a residential area.  So I have checked out the situation, and it turns out that indeed there is a good, if rather sad, reason.

Yesterday I had a long chat with one of the residents of the new tower next to the wild green space.  Here’s what I learned:

First of all, my assumption about the cost of the condos was incorrect.  As a matter of fact, because of the recession, the prices of condos around Penticton has fallen rather dramatically.  Many towers were under construction when the hard economic times hit, and sales came to a rather screeching halt.  The prices of units in the tower next to the green space now range from under $200,000 to a maximum of about $400,000 – even for the penthouse suites!   So if you’re looking for lovely new condos with 6 appliances, generously sized balconies, and upgrade finishes, at a very reasonable price, you might want to check these ones out.

Second, the folks who have already bought condo units (starting just this past October) themselves decided to put in the walkway, which is actually on the tower’s property.  They wanted to create easy and safe access to the park to the west, and the mall to the east, for the condo owners.  Many of these new owners are seniors who have mobility issues, and the path was created so they could easily enjoy these aspects of the community.  At the same time, they hoped that other Penticton residents would also be able to enjoy the wild little green space next to the tower.  And at first, their hopes were realized.  Owners had easy access to the park and mall, and many local residents, young and old, families and singles, walked the path every day.  The gentleman I spoke with lives in one of the units that overlooks the path and green space, and he told me how enjoyable it was to sit out on their balcony as folks walked by enjoying the path, and waving up to them, chatting with them, and thanking them for creating the path.  BUT…

Unfortunately, there were a few people who ruined it for everyone.  A group of teenagers found the path and decided to make it their hangout.  Every evening they would go to a local fast-food joint, buy lots of take-out, and head over to the path.  Now next to the path, the tower has two doors and a patio with seating for owners who wish to enjoy the lovely green area.  It seems that these youngsters thought it the perfect place to hang out.  And not just to hang out, but also to leave a huge pile of garbage for the tower caretaker to clean up every morning.  And make lots of noise, disturbing the condo residents who were trying to sleep.  And, worst of all, causing a lot of destruction.  Broken bottles soon littered the area.  Swastikas and filthy language were sprayed across the side of the building.  Both doors were damaged.  Residents were afraid to use the exits by the path to leave the building.

Although the condo owners hated to do it, they finally came to the conclusion that the path would have to be gated and locked.  They felt badly for cutting off access to the community.  But it’s not just the community who suffers.  The residents themselves no longer have the safe and easy access to the park and mall through their very own building exits, and must now use the parking lot and street-level exits above, which also causes special difficulty for residents living on the bottom floor.  Yes, they can now sit safely on the patio, and yes, they no longer have to face the filth, noise, and nasty graffiti.  The caretaker has done his best to cover the damage, but passersby can still see the outline of the swastika, as the paint deeply penetrated the concrete.

You might think that is the end of the story.  But sadly, no.  Some of the young people still want to hang out in the area.  Unable to use the pathway, they are now using the creek bed, which is mostly dry during the summer and fall months.  If you look at the pictures in my original article, you will see the odd bit of litter, most of it light bits of paper and such which may simply have blown in with the wind.  But now, just 2 or 3 weeks later, the path is much more littered.  There are spots where it is obvious that parties are being held – and the noise is once again disturbing residents in towers on each side of the green space.  Also, a little to the west, nearer Lion’s park, the youth are partying under the big old weeping willows, and not only are those spots being littered with bottles and food containers, there is also toilet paper and the stink of urine.  These are not over-night transients camping; these are the same youth who were hanging out on the lovely new path.

About a week ago, some of these same youth were blowing off fireworks in the mall parking lot late in the evening.  When the police arrived, the youth ran across the street and hid in the bushes.  The police had to go in with flashlights to flush them out.  Most of them ran off, but at least one got caught.  He tossed his skateboard over the fence, and climbed over, apparently planning to run to the end of the path and escape.  However, he must have forgotten that there are now locked gates at either end – and he ended up trapped!  An ironic reminder, perhaps, that what we do usually catches up with us sooner or later, and often in surprising ways.

When I wrote the last post about this “locking up nature” situation, one commenter on Facebook wrote the following:  “This is where the general public needs to contact their city council and ask for more park trails 🙂  start a petition!”  What do you think?  What can responsible citizens do together to end wanton damage and hooliganism by just a few (and that includes adults as well as young people) who choose to ruin things for everyone else?  What are your ideas?  Why not list them in the comments below?  Let’s get into action and do something together.  Surely the majority can overcome the minority if we stand together. 

By the way, the gentleman I was speaking with noted that another community in BC has recently re-started the old 9 pm curfew that many communities (including large cities like Vancouver and surrounding cities) used to have, and that early indications show a significant drop in night-time problems.  While we were chatting, another local resident came by and suggested that, much as we love our little wild tangled green spots, maybe if the city cleared some of the underbrush, the areas wouldn’t be as inviting to people looking to hang-out and/or hide.  Then of course there are possibilities like putting in more lighting.    What do you think of any of these as  possible solutions?  Or can you think of other solutions?  What about a strengthened Community Watch program?  What else?  What are YOU willing to do?

Please comment!  Thanks!



men and their plastic bags

3 September 2011

Yesterday we featured the myriad of wonderful baskets one sees at Penticton’s Saturday Farmers and Artisans Markets.  Today we go on to something a tad less charming, but nonetheless still utilitarian, and popular with a certain gender.

Disposable plastic bags.  The thin white ones from grocery stores, of course – which seem to be getting thinner every year, as the supermarkets and big box catch-all stores try to convince their customers to make the switch to their recyclable bags of fabric or heavy plastic or some combination thereof.  We’re even getting charged for the disposable bags, and the price seems to keep rising as the thickness decreases to the point that anything heavier than lettuce or bread is sure to break the bag.  Then there are the thicker, shinier ones, often in blues and blacks and reds and other shades.  You’re more likely to acquire them – for free, generally – at clothing stores, specialty shops, and the more uppity department stores.  Like their poorer mates, they are colorfully splashed with store advertising.  Generally, you can trust them to hold a somewhat heavier load.  And of course there are also the extra-large plastic disposable bags you’ll get at hardware and some department stores, perfect for bulky items, but unfortunately often too thin to carry much weight – an unfortunate conundrum, don’t you think?

Do you ever wonder when disposable plastic bags first appeared?  Apparently they were invented by a Swede who took out a US patent in 1965 (although various forms of thicker, stronger plastic bags have been around since the 1930s).  They were advertised as an environmentally friendly alternative for the sturdy paper grocer bags.  No more forest destruction, polluting manufacturing processes, and loss of animal habitats.  Hurrah for progress!  And wouldn’t you know it?  They ARE environmentally friendly!  Well, sort of.  Apparently 50 to 75 per cent of disposable plastic bags are reused – usually as garbage bags.  And they’re popular, right?  It’s estimated that between 500 billion and one trillion are used each year, worldwide.  Which may be just a little scary, as one of your standard disposable plastic bags can take up to 1000 years to disintegrate (even though the thin ones take about 10 seconds to rip apart).   They also gradually leak toxic chemicals into soil and water, and tend to choke any wildlife that get too curious about them.

Of course, with levys in some places, and outright bans in others, folks are starting to use disposable plastic bags less, with about 7%  taken to recycling centers.  Then there is some switch to fabric bags and baskets and such.  Fortunately, manufacturers know how much we love our plastic bags, so they’ve created wonderful plastic garbage bags to replace our “recycled” disposable grocery bags – and these replacements are bigger and stronger and thicker.  Yay!  And stores are providing thick heavy-duty reusable plastic bags, or plastic-fabric combinations, and then of course stores are also encouraging us to buy plastic bins and other plastic containers and carriers as well.  So it must be true: plastic is better!

But I digress.  After all, we are focusing here on the totes folks use to bring home their fresh, organic produce, and natural, hand-made crafts and other artistic creations from Penticton’s Saturday markets.  And I have to admit that over the past few seasons, I have noticed that fewer and fewer disposable plastic bags are being used.  Most folks are bringing reusable bags, baskets, backpacks, and other sorts of totes.  An ever-increasing number of merchants refuse to supply disposable plastic bags.  Good for them!  But some customers are still in love with their disposable plastic sacks.  As I snapped these pictures, I did an informal poll and discovered an interesting fact: about 80 to 90 percent of disposable-plastic-bag-toting-customers are of the male gender!  Perhaps disposable plastic bags are macho?  Perhaps men don’t think to come prepared?  Perhaps men are more concerned about jobs and the economy (after all, when Washington DC banned the bags, over 100 jobs were directly lost in the first year).  Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps …  Why do you think men love their disposable plastic bags so much?

Lots to do with the grandkids

August 18, 2011

In Penticton, there really is lots to do with the grandkids!  My 10-year-old grandson came out to visit from Alberta for a few days, and we had such a great time.

The first day, we mini-golfed, swam, and played in two parks.  The only thing that “cost” was the mini-golf, and hubby won a free pass which he passed on to our grandson.  A couple of days later, the little guy and his granny on his dad’s side used the free pass to go mini-golfing – and won another free pass.  So it turns out that one of the great things about activities with the grandkids in Penticton is that the few things that “cost” are actually almost free too 🙂

There’s another great thing about Penticton activities with the grandkids – you can park the car (or even just walk from home) and find a wide variety of activities all within a 10 to 15 minute walking distance of each other.  We started at Loco Landing where we played mini-golf, fed the ducks and goldfish, and Chinnie (grandpa) and the little guy had a wonderful time shooting cannonballs.  The young ‘un made some new friends, too.

Then a short walk to Okanagan Beach, for fun in the waves, sliding into the water with huge splashes, making sand castles, watching the parasailers and sail-boarders and waterskiiers – and backpack snacks on the sand.  And making new friends.

Across the street to Lakawanna Park for fun in the water park, and more excitement on the huge adventure playground.  And of course, more new friends.

Then a short two or three blocks on to the adventure playground at Queen’s Elementary School, watching activities of children taking part in the Penticton Rec summer day camp program, meeting still more new friends, and finally a picnic lunch while perched high atop the monkey bars!

Then back to the  car, parked in the lovely shady free parking lot behind Lakawanna Park – cool even on a warm sunny South Okanagan summer day!

Summer fun at Okanagan Beach

August 07 – 08, 2011

After a very, very, very long cool spring which stretched half-way through Penticton’s normal summer season, summer has truly arrived, with lots of blue, sunny skies and thermometers registering in the low 30s C on a consistent basis.

And of course that means that the unusually quiet lonely beaches have suddenly become the center of Penticton summer fun.  The waterfowl may be a little surprised by the sudden influx of humans, but it certainly hasn’t scared them off.  Ducks and seagulls mingle cheerfully with tourists and locals, sailing overhead as the human folks sail on the waves, swimming, sailboarding, waterskiing, sliding down the always popular slides to splash into the water, and floating on all manner of air-filled devices.  Young and old demonstrated their architectural skills, building great sand-castle creations together.

At the shoreline, families play together in the sand and waves.  One of the great things about Penticton’s beaches is the family focus, with members of all ages from newborns to honored great-grandparents almost all sharing in the happiness and community together.   Almost all.

On the day these snapshots were taken, one young family came to the beach.  The parents, unfortunately, ensconced themselves on towels on the sand, and ordered the children to go play in the water while the parents laid back, closed their eyes, and soaked up the sun.  The eldest child, perhaps 8 or 9 years old, was placed in charge of the youngest of perhaps a year in age.  She was told to stand at the foot of the slide, chest-deep in the water, to catch the baby as he came down.  As the little one flew off the end of the slide, his little feet stretched out in front of him bowled over his young sister, and both went under the water.  One of the parents, observing this incident from their comfortable spot on the sand, started hollering at the little girl to take better care of the baby.  Both children were spluttering and choking on the water, and thrashing about trying to get safely to shore, but other than shouting at them angrily, the parents did not move to help.

Along came an older man, obviously a grandfather, already playing with his own children and grandchildren in the water and on the slide.  He gently scooped up the two little folks, brought them to the edge of the water, and sat down with them in the shallow shore waters.  Quickly the other siblings joined their brother and sister, and his own grandchildren ran over too.  In moments, the whole group was laughing and playing safely together with this grandpa.  He played with them all for a good half hour, and then it was time to take his own family home.  The parents of the little ones whom he had rescued were, sadly, still laying stretched out in the sun ignoring their children.  As this grandpa got up to leave, the little ones he had just adopted stretched out their arms to him and said, “Grandpa, do you really have to go?  Can’t you stay and play with us longer?”  He replied that he really did have to go, but that he hoped he’d see them again another day.  As he left the beach with his own children and grandchildren, he stopped to tell the parents they’d need to watch their children now.  They just glared at him.

Fortunately, such parents are an exception on Penticton’s beaches.  Even more fortunately, caring community members like the grandfather are not an exception.  What a great place we have for families to vacation or live.

Peach Fest Aboriginal Village

August 6, 2011

One of the wonderful free features of Penticton’s annual city festival, “Peachfest,” is the Aboriginal Cultural Village at Gyro Park.  Aboriginal artists, dancers, drummers and singers, and other musicians come from across Canada to showcase their talents and culture.  Penticton’s Indian Band, the Sylix Nation, hosts this great two-day event featuring a Pow Wow, teepees, traditional foods, crafts, cultural displays, and family and children’s’ contests and activities.

It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and it is certainly true of this event.  So onto a sampling of photos from 2011’s Aboriginal Cultural Village (be sure to click on the photos to see them in full size) :

Penticton beaches

22 July 2011

Penticton is famous for its beaches at either end of the city:  Okanagan Lake beach to the north, and Skaha Lake beach to the south.  While the weather has been a bit unusual this year, with more clouds and summer showers than usual, we have still had pretty wonderful weather, especially considering the extreme weather conditions so many other places have suffered.

While the beaches this summer aren’t as crowded as they usually are, and while the lake waters are cooler than normal for this time of year, the sandy shores are still a popular destination for locals and tourists alike.

As always, our lake waters are beautifully clear.  Snapshots of sand or pebbles in the water look as if there is no water covering them!

Our beachside walks attract families, singles, and of course romantic couples, enjoying the warmth and beautiful views.  Ducks and geese also enjoy our shoreline, and have little fear of humans – which some folks enjoy, like the little gal and the gentleman walking among a feathered flock in these pictures, while of course some other folks disapprove of the “mess” the migrating flocks leave to remind us of their visit.  The water birds also enjoy a float along the shoreline and find a good stock of their favorite snacks in the waters.

The famous statues of “Children romping” has been moved from its former location by the secluded Japanese gardens to a more public spot on the shoreline, where these brass children mingle with their lively human counterparts.  It is hoped that this new location will also be less inviting to unfortunate vandalism.

While less folks than usual have been braving the waters this summer, many still spread their pale bodies under the summer skies, enjoying the warmth and hoping for a tan. A good book or simply a pleasant nap add to the enjoyment.  And although hookah bars have not come to Penticton yet, some folks have decided to enjoy their own version while sitting on benches enjoying the beach view.  It seems that the many warnings of skin damage just cannot compete with the draw of sand and sun.  Here’s hoping the sun worshipers have spread lots of sunblock on themselves.

Children and young adults are still likely to brave the waters for a quick dip despite the chilliness of the lake this year, and of course water activities like floating devices, waterskiing, parasailing, water slides, and sandcastle building overcome the hesitation of many.  On the other hand, rentals of kayaks and other watercraft are down this year, much to the sorrow of the entrepreneurial sorts who hope to make a profit off the sun worshippers.

Penticton recreation department has a very popular summer day-camp program, and it appears that the numbers of children enthusiastically taking part this year are probably as numerous as usual.  If you are hungry, there are always vendors ready to fill your empty tummy, including at Okanagan beach’s famous “peach” (which was once rolled down the beach to the water by a group of overly enthusiastic young folk, errr rioters).  On the other hand, it is also quite common to find very young entrepreneurs at their family gate selling lemonade and fresh cherries or other fresh-picked fruit from the trees in their yards.

For those folks who have had enough of the beach, there are always other free activities nearby – how about a game of bocce in the park, or a multi-person bike ride along city streets, or a game of catch with a friend, or perusing the newspaper on a quiet park bench, or even a nap in the mall after a pleasant game of chess? Something for everyone!

Summer is only half over, so if you haven’t made it to sunny Penticton yet this summer, come on!

Helpers in our Town

April 26, 2011

In an old scrapbook, I have a booklet I made in grade one, called “Helpers in our Town.”   It of course includes the mailman, the policeman, the fireman, the grocer – and even the milkman!  (Yes, I was in grade one a long time ago).

Anyway, today this Penticton pedestrian was out and about, and noticed that while milkmen may be in short supply, we still have plenty of Helpers in our Town.  Some of them are obvious, like the firefighters racing to an emergency, and the landscapers and clean-up crews keeping our famous Penticton beaches clean and inviting.  (Did you know that the 2011 Travellers Choice Awards for Best Beaches in Canada rated Penticton’s beaches 2nd in Canada, behind only Tofino?  Pretty awesome!  Read about it here.)

Some of the Helpers in our Town are less obvious, working quietly behind the scenes to provide lovely gardens in their yards for passersby to enjoy; or walking the streets and alleys, without pay, reaching out to and caring for those in need.  Some seem to be like the elves in the “elves and the shoemaker” story, as they come in, do their job, and then are gone – but leave behind something  for us all to enjoy like the new gazebo by the beach.  Others tuck spring bulbs into public spaces, and suddenly bright red tulips add a bright splash of color to somewhat-scruffy-end-of-winter xeriscape garden beds.

And then there are the patient folks like Larry (pictured with my pedestrian pal Ruth) who diligently clean up our streets year round, in all kinds of weather, picking up the detritus that other folks unthinkingly toss aside.  Larry’s barrel was overflowing this morning with garbage that people have tossed into the flower beds along Main Street, even though there are garbage containers handy on every block.  Kind of discouraging – but Larry was cheerful and friendly as always, especially as the city has finally given him a key to a centrally located bin where he can empty his barrel and then get back out again, doing what he loves to do: be a Helper in our Town.

seniors in the sunshine

April 12 2011

Out and about on a sunny Tuesday morning in April, I was astonished to see the baseball fields filled with teams enthusiastically playing.  Goodness, I wondered, who has time off work on a mid-week morning to play baseball?  Drawing closer to the action, I realized that these athletic and energetic young folks were actually a good crowd of Penticton seniors!

When we think of seniors we often picture them sitting in the food court at the mall or at the local coffee shop, or perhaps if they are especially energetic, bowling at the local alley.  But on this pleasant spring morning, Penticton seniors were out and about, and involved in all kinds of activities.  In fact, a lot of them I’m sure put much younger folks to shame!  Check out these snapshots –

  • playing baseball
  • pushing the grandbaby on the swings at the park
  • raking up winter’s scraps
  • going walkabout
  • gardening
  • speeding down the road on a patriotic scooter
  • spring cleaning the yard
  • visiting and soaking up the sun at an outdoor cafe
  • enjoying watching the world go by
  • window shopping
  • going to the library
  • polishing the car
  • pushing grandbaby around in his stroller
  • bike riding
  • grocery shopping
  • fast-food lunching
  • giving the car a good spring cleaning

Whew!  Makes me tired just watching those active seniors!  Think I’ll go home and have a nap.  🙂

Sunday morning streetscapes

April 2, 2011

Every Sunday morning, year round, from 6 am to about 9:30 am or as long as folks want to stay around, the Another Chance Street Ministry provides free breakfast for street people and anyone else who wants to come by.  They also provide clothing, personal items and other needs.   The street breakfast is currently meeting downtown on Martin Street, at St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church a couple doors from the movie theatre.  To find out more about this outreach and current activities, times and places, check out their website, Another Chance Okanagan.

out and about

June 26, 2010

Some guy in shorts and t-shirt who must have been on his lunch break, was standing outside the back door of a business.  He had his shoes and socks off, and was vigorously walking on the spot; meanwhile, he was also wringing out a soaked towel, apparently exercising his arms and cooling off his feet!  Oddly entertaining for passersby!

Met 3 of the street church guys in a back alley.  We walked along for a few blocks, chatting together.  They told me about how they are fixing a house for a lady whose son recently passed away.  She wants her house to be a good place for people to stay as they leave the street and clean up their lives.  Cool!

There were literally thousands of people out to the Farmers Market and the Artisans Market; the Classic Car Peach Cruise (about 800 cars and quite a lot of motorbikes as well!); and the annual Elvis Festival, with close to 30 Elvis impersonators!  All on a beautiful hot sunny day in the beautiful parks by the beach.

An RCMP officer in red serge (dress uniform) was opening the Beach Cruise entertainment (a Johnny Cash impersonator!) by singing the US national anthem and then the Canadian anthem.  People commenting that he did a better job of the US anthem.  Hmmmm…  People inside the fence at the park stood to attention, mostly (except those in the beer garden); people outside the fence happily ignored the whole thing.  Hmmm again.

Sailboats, speed boats, seadoos, kayaks, canoes on the lake.  Parasailing too.  Perfect day!

A guy came along while I was sitting in the shade on some rocks by the beach.  We started talking.  Turns out he grew up in the same town as I did, but because he went to a different school, we never met.  However, I had known the girl he married; she was one grade behind me in my high school.  Our short chat turned into 2 1/2 hours… computers, electronics, home school, house churches, miracles, Christian TV, satellites, sailing/ canoeing/ kayaking, places we’ve both been, Bill Gates and other famous people he has met…  Yo! It’s a small world!

Walking home it was hot (at least 30 C).  I ended up phoning hubby when I was about 3/4 of the way home and begging for a ride. 🙂