I am fairly new to Summerland but not to the Okanagan. The last 15 years have seen quite a few changes in the communities that dot Okanagan Lake.
With the exception of Summerland.
Some might think this is a good thing. I don’t happen to agree.
In many ways, change to a community is a good thing. It can bring renewal in the form of new residents, new businesses and new ideas.
Many think that by stifling change, everything will remain the same. Life doesn’t work that way.
Change is like water. It finds another way in. You can either lead the change or it can lead you.
Which brings me to my point.
I’ve been watching with interest the first year of this municipal council. So far, I haven’t been overly impressed.
They were primarily voted in because they were against the proposed swap of ALR land. So it was no surprise that they took care of that issue on Day One. Now what?
A no-smoking bylaw, rainbow crosswalks and backyard chickens.
I have to believe that there must be more important issues to spend valuable time on.
How about a strategy to attract new employers, a plan to improve the downtown, a proposal to encourage young families to locate here.
In short, I haven’t seen a bold idea.
While Summerland paints crosswalks and enforces extended smoking bylaws, communities like Peachland and Penticton pass by.
Peachland has turned itself into a vibrant, fun place. From its great restaurants to its summer festivals, it is a family friendly town.
Penticton passed an economic investment zone tax incentive bylaw a few years ago.
So far, it’s brought them several new businesses.
Construction is everywhere and it’s a positive sign that things are heading in the right direction for them.
What frustrates me about this is that Summerland has so much potential.
It’s one of the few communities where the highway doesn’t pass through the middle of town.
Summerland has walkability, a beautiful mix of agriculture and business.
The arts scene here is healthy, the service clubs, like Rotary, do a great job.
Summerland has several above average business leaders here that are achieving greatness.
There is a lot to brag about.
All that is missing is a plan to take advantage of what is already in place and grow it.
Growth appears to be a swear word here, and I get the impression that is intentional.
Change is coming to Summerland. The gig is up. We’ve been discovered. If we weren’t before, being featured on a national television show ought to do it.
The question is, do we want to direct that growth and change or be held captive while it happens.
If you would like an example of how ignoring change can be detrimental, look no further than Kelowna.
For decades, they fought a ring road to get traffic off of highway 97. Now it can take an hour to get from the bridge to the airport.
Change and growth came anyway. Problem is, now they are not in control.
The opportunities in Summerland are endless and mayor and council have all the assets to compete.
All they need is a plan and no more distractions.
Rob Murphy is the sales manager of the Summerland Review.