Hello Okanagan takes a winter wine tour with Cheers Okanagan Tours

Take a winter wine tour

Peter Kaz and David Scarlatescu are back with the latest episode of Hello Okanagan.

This week, they take a winter wine tour with Cheers Okanagan Tours.

Each week, Kaz and Scarlatescu talk with Okanagan business leaders, debate issues facing the region, and promote the Valley as a whole.

The videos will be aired each Saturday, and you can see them here on Castanet.

If you any questions or suggestions, contact them via the Hello Okanagan Facebook page.

City crews fixing sinkhole on Lakeshore Road near bridge

Small sinkhole slows traffic

Motorists traveling along Lakeshore Road may experience delays after a small sink hole was found near the Vernon Creek bridge

One-way, alternating traffic is in place around the area until crews are able to complete repairs. Signs and barricades are in place. Motorists are asked to slow down and yield to traffic in the southbound lane.

Staff praised in 'difficult situation' at scene of Vernon COVID outbreak

'Trying times' in outbreak

The manager of Vernon's Heritage Square seniors home – where a COVID-19 outbreak has claimed seven lives – says staff are "doing an amazing job under the most difficult of situations."

“Sadly, Interior Health is finishing the week by reporting that another two people have died due to COVID-19," Interior Health CEO Susan Brown said Friday as the number of cases in the outbreak climbed at Heritage Square.

"Both people passed away in long-term care, bringing the total number of families in IH who have lost loved ones to this pandemic to 46."

Director of operations Wendy Calhoun with home operator Kaigo praised her staff for their hard work under the trying circumstances.

The long-term care home outbreak has seen 58 cases among 44 residents and 14 staff, with seven deaths.

IH declared the outbreak on Dec. 27, when four staff members and six residents tested positive.

At that time, IH said additional infection control and preventive measures were put in place, including enhanced cleaning protocols and COVID-19 visitor policies.

The operator also implemented a temporary stop to all visits across the site as an added precaution.

"We are managing the house under the rules and regulations and guidelines as outlined by Interior Health," said Calhoun.

Contacted by a family member of a resident who told Castanet people are still "coming and going" from the facility, IH spokesperson Susan Duncan confirmed only essential visits are permitted by the Ministry of Health order, "such as visiting residents who are palliative."

"It would be cruel not to let family members see loved ones who are in their final days," she said.

Calhoun reiterated that position, noting the facility has also assisted living residents and staff who come and go.

"People have to come in and out," she said Friday. "That is why we have greeters at the door, to make sure people need to be there, and they are escorted to the resident's room."

She said only essential visitors are allowed under strict guidelines.

Across the Interior Health region, outbreaks continue at Creekside Landing and Noric House long-term care in Vernon, Heritage Retirement Residence in West Kelowna, Village by the Station in Penticton, Mountainview Village in Kelowna, Brocklehurst Gemstone long-term care in Kamloops, and Williams Lake Seniors Village.

Mayor Victor Cumming said lots or projects on the horizon for 2021

Lots of construction ahead

There was a lot more going on in 2020 than a pandemic.

While COVID may have dominated the news, construction dominated the landscape with numerous projects from roadwork to housing being done in the city and Vernon's mayor said that trend will continue into 2021.

Victor Cumming said there will be the completion of one of the biggest projects of 2020 when the extension of 29th Avenue through the old Civic Arena site is finalized.

Cumming said that project, complete with two roundabouts, will be finished this year.

“As soon as the ground becomes warm we will find that to be finished and paved and ready and open,” said Cumming.

A park for that parcel of land is also on the agenda for 2021.

Cumming said Civic Park will be a great positive for the neighbourhood and the city.

Other projects happening in 2021 include a roof for the pickleball facility at Marshall Field. The local pickleball club raised more than $1 million in a matter of weeks for the roof.

And while the adults are playing pickleball, or taking a kick at the ball on the nearby soccer pitches, kids will be able to keep busy on a new playground that is planned for the facility.

“It will be a substantial playground,” said Cumming. “There will be a big playground there for the kids to play on.”

Just down the road from Marshall field is the Lakeshore Road redevelopment which Cumming said is “such a key thing for the city of Vernon.”

The popular Kin Beach will have an extension added on to the north-west side of the park and at the other end of town near the Foothills subdivision a path is going to be built from BX School to Blackcomb Way.

“It will be an off-road trail so kids from Foothills will be able to, fairly easily, get down to their school on the trail,” said Cumming.

The first-term mayor also hopes the city's Climate Action Plan gets approved in 2021.

Historian digs up vintage footage of what may be the BC Lions training in Kelowna

Mystery Lions in the Valley

Another mystery video has surfaced, and this one has what appears to be Lions.

Vernon-based historian and videographer Francois Arseneault has unearthed black-and-white footage from the late 1950s of what he beleives to be members of the BC Lions in the Okanagan.

“It appears to be a BC Lions pre-season training of some sort in Kelowna, or is it tryouts?” wonders Arseneault of the 1959 film. “It doesn't appear to be high school football as the players seem a little older.”

The footage contains lots of faces, and Arseneault hopes “older and wiser BC Lions fans may recognize a few of the players and staff.”

The Lions played their first CFL season in 1954 and were a relatively new team in 1959.

In Vancouver, they were playing at Empire Stadium, which was constructed for the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games.

“In 1959, the Lions managed their first winning season with a 9–7–0 record and were able to make their first playoff appearance with a final-game triumph over the Calgary Stampeders at Empire Stadium,” said Arseneault. “This practise session took place on the field at Kelowna City Park at Harvey Avenue at a time when the population of the city was a mere 12,000 people.”

Arseneault is always looking for more information on the vintage footage he digs up, and he encourages people to add their input in the comments section on his Youtube page.

Arseneault has an extensive collection of vintage footage, and he is looking for more.

Anyone who may have old 16 mm or 8 mm film footage of the Vernon and Okanagan area is invited to email Arseneault at [email protected].

Two more people died of COVID-19 at Heritage Square in Vernon

Two more COVID deaths

Two more residents of Vernon's Heritage Square long-term care home have died from COVID-19, bringing the total deaths there to seven.

Over the past two days, 12 more residents and four staff members have tested positive at Heritage Square, for a total of 44 residents and 14 staff.

Creekside Landing long-term care in Okanagan Landing has two additional cases with 12 residents and 13 staff testing positive. There has been one death linked to this outbreak.

Vernon's Noric House has had eight more staff members test positive over the last two days for a total of 24 residents and 16 staff.

“Sadly, Interior Health is finishing the week by reporting that another two people have died due to COVID-19. Both people passed away in long-term care, bringing the total number of families in IH who have lost loved ones to this pandemic to 46,” said Susan Brown, IH president and CEO.

“As COVID-19 cases rise throughout the southern Interior, we must redouble our efforts to prevent ongoing spread in the community. It is so important to follow the public health guidance that helps keep you and your loved ones safe from COVID-19: keep to your household bubble, stay home when you are sick, practise physical distancing, wear a mask, and wash your hands often.”

To date, 31 long-term care home residents have died in the Interior.

Other active outbreaks in the Interior Health region include:

  • Cariboo Memorial Hospital in Williams Lake – six staff cases
  • Brocklehurst Gemstone in Kamloops – three residents and one staff
  • Sunnybank in Oliver – 21 residents (three new) and seven staff, one death
  • Williams Lake Seniors Village – one resident and one staff
  • Heritage Retirement Residence in West Kelowna – 41 residents and five staff, two deaths
  • McKinney Place in Oliver – 55 residents and 23 staff, 17 deaths
  • Village by the Station in Penticton – five residents and five staff, one death
  • Mountainview Village in Kelowna has – eight residents and eight staff, two deaths
  • Teck mining operations remains at 16 cases linked to the outbreak.

There are 13 new cases associated with the Big White cluster for a total of 175 cases and 32 active cases.

Vernon Winter Carnival parade will not go ahead due to COVID safety concerns

Carnival parade cancelled

For the first time since the Vernon Winter Carnival began, there will be no parade.

The 61st annual carnival takes place in early February, but COVID concerns mean there will be no parade for 2021.

Vicki Proulx, carnival executive director, says organizers had been working closely with Interior Health to come up with a way to safely hold the parade, but “health authorities feel, at this time, there are too many moving parts to keep it safe for the public and participants.”

The carnival parade is the only parade on Vernon's calendar and is one of the biggest events at carnival, regularly attracting thousands of people to the downtown core.

“We are so thankful for the guidance from Interior Health. We were only going forward with the parade if we could do it safely – and if Interior Health feels we can’t, we understand their reasoning and their decision,” said Proulx.

“We weren't going to go ahead with it without their blessing.”

But carnival officials have not written off the parade entirely, and there is a chance it may be held later in the year.

“We will do it as soon as we possibly can, even if we have to have a winter carnival parade in July,” said Proulx. “It can be a Christmas in July kind of idea. Doesn’t matter the season, we’ll bring the winter carnival parade to the community as soon as we can.”

Meanwhile, provincial restrictions due to COVID have changed how the rest of carnival will look this year.

The Wild West themed carnival will be hosting virtual events as well as a drive-through ice park in Polson Park featuring ice sculptures matching the theme.

Tickets for carnival events are available here.

Vernon's Deb White named to Mortgage Brokers Hall of Fame

Top honours for White

A Vernon mortgage broker has received a mitt-full of honours for her work.

Deb White of Dominion Lending Centres' White House Mortgages founder Deb White has received national recognition for a lucky number of seven achievements in 2020, a year that was anything but ordinary.

White’s 2020 recognition included:

  • Induction into the Mortgage Brokers Hall of Fame by CMP Magazine
  • She was named to the Mortgage Global Top 100 List
  • Was recognized as a Woman of Influence in CMP Magazine
  • White was elected to the Canadian Mortgage Brokers Association – B.C. board of directors
  • She became treasurer for the Vernon Chamber of Commerce
  • Was one of 15 people who reached Hero Hall of Fame status nationally with Dominion Lending Centres
  • And was named to the Top 20 over 40 list by the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce

During all this, mortgage brokers an essential service as the COVID-19 pandemic continued.

White and her team were able to help local residents access record-low interest rates to buy new homes, renew existing mortgages or tap into home equity through refinancing to ease cash flow and pay off debt.

“Where there is challenge, there is also opportunity,” says White. “It’s our job to show borrowers these opportunities in order to help them save money, especially during trying times.”

In addition, White House continued to raise funds for local causes. Several of its brokers have also been recognized as top national performers on the annual CMP Top 75 Brokers list.

The Vernon brokerage was launched in 2005 by White and has grown to include mortgage brokers located in multiple locations across the B.C. Interior.

Province defends response to overdose crisis in light of criticism from head of Vernon charitable foundation

At odds over OD crisis

The province and the head of a Vernon charitable organization don't see eye to eye over B.C.'s overdose crisis.

Sherman Dahl, who founded the Emily Dahl Foundation after the death of his daughter (not from addiction or drug issues), bashed provincial campaigns "promoting" the use of Naloxone to revive overdose victims.

In an email to local media, Dahl questioned the wisdom of the current approach to the crisis.

“This will never work and is simply causing more deaths and suffering in our society. It is very sad to see an organization like the BC Centre for Disease Control, that does have resources, show complete lack of understanding of the problem,” Dahl charged.

Dahl said officials should be addressing the root problems behind drug addiction.

“When people suffer, they look for these distractions in order to forget their pain. But these things only distract us temporarily from our suffering, they don't heal us,” Dahl wrote.

“This is not the kind of message you would expect from the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions.

“Those who are destroying themselves, their families, and their society by intoxicating themselves are not doing it intentionally. Their pain and loneliness are overwhelming, and they want to escape. They need to be helped,” Dahl said.

But, the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions begs to differ.

“People need to be alive before they can begin addressing the root causes of their trauma and addiction through services such as counselling and supportive recovery," a ministry spokesperson said in an email to Castanet.

"Since 2017, the province has implemented a comprehensive package of health interventions and proven strategies to reduce overdoses and save lives. Efforts to expand overdose prevention services have averted nearly 6,000 deaths since April 2016, and approximately 75,800 Naloxone kits have been used to reverse overdoses since August 2012. Naloxone saves lives.

“Saving lives in the immediate through interventions such as Naloxone is just one part of our work. We are building a comprehensive system of mental health and addictions care from the ground up, with a strong focus on increasing access to treatment and recovery services, in addition to prevention by reaching more young people early to help stop small issues before they become large and complex.”

Since 2017, the ministry says the province has invested:

  • $2.3 million to expand suicide prevention programs to support Indigenous youth and post-secondary students.
  • $13.9 million for mental health initiatives in B.C. schools over four years.
  • $13.5 million for new treatment and recovery beds across the province.
  • $36 million to more than double youth treatment beds provincewide.
  • $10.5 million for overdose and treatment supports.

Newly improved Lavington skating rink won't open this winter

Lavington rink put on ice

Outdoor skating at Lavington's newly covered community rink has been put on ice this winter.

The Lavington Community Association announced Friday that after consulting "Interior Health, the District of Coldstream, our insurance company, and members of our community, it is with heavy hearts that the Lavington Community Association has decided not to open the ice skating rink at Jeffers Park for the remainder of this winter."

A community fundraising effort that brought in $300,000 to put a roof over the multi-use pad saw construction finish in December.

The organization had hoped to flood the rink this month.

"It is tremendously disappointing for the LCA to take this step, given the outpouring of generosity from local government, businesses, and residents to get the roof over the ice surface built in December. However, due to provincial COVID restrictions and a concern for public health, the LCA has reluctantly made the decision not to put the ice in this season," the association wrote on its Facebook page.

"Obviously, the health crisis facing us is a fluid, evolving situation – and we remain hopeful that our community will be able to avail themselves of this facility at some point this year."

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