LETTER: Time to focus on growth

It’s interesting how a conversation on the street with outsiders can make us more aware of the issues facing our community.

Dear Editor:

Thank you Rob Murphy for your timely column. It’s interesting how a conversation on the street with outsiders can make us more aware of the issues facing our community. As residents, it’s easy to become so complacent that we cannot recognize worsening problems until it’s too late.

It’s time for a serious conversation. Summerland’s survival depends on it.

First, Summerland needs to recognize that a lack of local economic growth and vitality is a serious problem that requires a solution based on facts and decisive action.

Second, we must recognize that this problem has evolved over a very long time. We must understand how we have failed in the past, otherwise we are doomed to repeat those mistakes.

Finally, the solution must be a community commitment that will span the decades it will take to solve. It must transcend local political changes and compromises to community planning.

A starting point for facts is BC Statistics, which provides a wealth of information if one takes the time to explore.

From 1995 to 2015, Summerland’s population grew by a paltry 598 people. However, if you look by age group, it tells another, more sobering story: residents aged 50 or younger actually declined by 1,618 (697 children, 921 adults). At the same time, the over-51 age group increased by 1,896.

BC Statistics also provides forecast information for the next 20 years and the forecast is bleak. Summerland’s population growth will be even less, with a continued decline of younger residents and disproportionate increase in seniors.

We need to consider these trends and the impact they may have on Summerland’s schools, retail businesses, housing, property taxes, access to health, government and city services. The good news is that Summerland has control over these trends. We can reverse them while improving our character and desirability.

Even fruit-growers recognize that in order to maintain the viability and vitality of an orchard with older stock, you have to keep planting young stock.

Richard Strafehl

Summerland