City of Kelowna asks residents to water young neighbourhood trees

 

Help out thirsty trees

With an unprecedented drought hitting the Central Okanagan this spring, the City of Kelowna is asking residents to help out local thirsty trees.

Earlier this week, Agriculture Canada declared a “severe drought” in the Central Okanagan, and local flora may be having a tough time.

“We’re currently experiencing an unprecedented drought and not all of our trees are irrigated,” said Andrew Hunsberger, urban forestry supervisor with the City of Kelowna.

“We’re asking homeowners to help us care for the young trees planted on streets and boulevards near their homes. By working together to keep these trees healthy, we can all do our part to grow and nurture our urban tree canopy in Kelowna.”

Hunsberger says young trees need about a bucket of water every week for the first three years of their lives, before their roots extend deep enough in the ground.

“Water is a precious resource and we need to think carefully about how and when we use it,” said Hunsberger. “However, Kelowna’s tree canopy is also an incredibly important part of our city and will pay us back with shade that will reduce water use in the future.”

The city is asking residents to slowly release water at the base of young trees for at least 15 minutes one to two times per week, during cooler times of the day.

Hunsberger notes the city typically does not get enough rain to keep trees hydrated.

City of Kelowna adding improvements to some intersections to make right turns safer

 

Making right turns safer

The City of Kelowna is making improvements to a number of intersections this year in an effort to make right-turns safer.

The “smart channel” right-turn lane design improves sight lines for drivers so they can merge safely while keeping an eye out for pedestrians.

“This is a great example of the evolution of traffic safety,” says Chad Williams, Transportation Planning Engineer. “This geometric reconfiguration of right turn channels improves sight lines and simplifies the turning movement, reducing collisions.”

The design forces the vehicle to enter the cross street at a sharper angler, reducing the turning radius and causing drivers to slow down.

The sharper entry angle also means that more of the intersection and cross street is within the driver’s immediate cone of vision. As a result, the driver does not need to do a sharp left shoulder check, which simplifies the turn. Finally, this layout also positions crossing pedestrians more directly in the line of sight of oncoming vehicles, which increases their visibility for drivers.

“ICBC contributes funding to road improvement projects, each year, that reduce collisions,” says Williams. “Last year ICBC invested more than $170,000 in Kelowna projects, for their safety benefits.”

Improvements are currently underway at Gordon Drive and Clement Avenue and are anticipated for completion by mid-April. People walking and cycling are asked to use an alternate route.

Smart right turns have already been completed at Cooper and Benvoulin roads and at Gerstmar and Springfield roads.

In 2021 the City will be improving three more intersections in Kelowna:

  • Bernard Avenue and Spall Road
  • Clifton Road and Clement Avenue
  • Leathead Road and Hwy 97

The safer right-turn lanes have been used for years in Penticton with great success. Accidents fell by more than 50 per cent after the safer turns lanes were installed along the Channel Parkway.

Kelowna seeking grant funds to connect Rutland active transportation corridor with rail trail

Grant funds for cycling link

The City of Kelowna hopes it can leverage funds from senior levels of government for a project linking the Houghton Road active transportation corridor with the Okanagan Rail Trail.

The project, at a cost of $2.6 million, was approved as part of the city’s 2021 provisional budget adopted last month.

Only about $650,000 was earmarked from taxpayers, with the rest of the funding through existing reserves.

However, city staff is hoping it can successfully obtain a grant through the COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure Stream to pay for the project.

According to a report prepared for Monday’s city council meeting, the grant is structured in such a way as to pay for 100 per cent of eligible costs.

If successful, staff say the grant would accelerate the design and construction of active transportation infrastructure in the city’s 10-year capital plan.

COUNCIL RAISES WATER RATES

City council narrowly approved steep increase in agricultural water rates

Agricultural property owners who receive water from the City of Kelowna will pay substantially more to irrigate their crops in 2021.

City council narrowly approved an increase of more than 25 per cent Monday. The increase will see farmers pay $120 an acre beginning in January, up from the current $96.30 per acre.

Despite the steep increase, utility services manager Kevin Van Vliet says the price owners of agricultural property pay will still be the lowest in the valley, and competitive with the other water utilities in the city.

The increase will also narrow the gap slightly with domestic water users who continue to subsidize the water utility.

However, there were concerns among some on council who believed the increase was too steep, and suggested the increase be phased in over time.

“I would be amenable to a two-year phase in,” said Coun. Brad Sieben.

“Twenty per cent is a lot during a challenging time, and the optics of that don’t look good when we’ve just taken this (water utility) over.”

Coun. Mohini Singh agreed, saying 2020 has been a very difficult year for farmers. It’s a time, she says, when a dollar is too much for them to handle.

Van Vliet indicated, because the utility must cover costs through water rates, any downward change to the proposed increase would mean domestic rates would need to go up beyond the six per cent already agreed upon.

Coun. Gail Given told her colleagues while it may be challenging to move rates at a high percentage, when they have been artificially low for some time, the principle of fairness among all users comes into play.

“In my mind, I think this is the direction we need to take. The recommendation is not out of line,” she said.

Coun. Luke Stack acknowledged previous councils agreed to keep rates low while the utility transitioned from SEKID to the city.

“We’ve honoured that,” he says.

“I think we almost have a duty to raise these rates to this level. We are still going to be the cheapest in the valley on the agricultural rate, and if we don’t address it we actually make it challenging for BMID and GEID to manage their facilities. I think it’s the responsible thing to do.”

Council voted 5-4 to approve the increase to $120 an acre with councillors Sieben, Singh, DeHart and Hodge voting against.

PARK REBUILD CONCLUDING

Crews are expected to begin the final phase of the reconstruction project at Rutland’s Centennial Park next week.

The final phase of construction, which includes an event stage, a basketball court, an ultimate frisbee field, a junior soccer field, ping pong tables, and landscaping, is scheduled to start Wednesday.

Construction of a new washroom is expected to start in the fall.

The final phase is budgeted at $3.3 million.

The remainder of the park will remain open to the public during construction.

Access is available at the Rutland Road entrance.

The City of Kelowna acquired the park from the Rutland Park Society in 2015.

Reconstruction of the park began the following year.

BIG PLANS NEAR GYRO BEACH

The developer behind a large mixed-use development near Kelowna’s Gyro Beach is presenting new plans to the public in the form of a virtual open house.

A 320-unit condo development at 3340 Lakeshore Road is proposed to include a mix of commercial and retail space at the current location of the Willow Creek Family Campground.

With COVID-19 restrictions still in place, the Stober Group is presenting their new plans to the public online.

“We understand how important it is to get feedback from the community on the proposed development, so the virtual open house will allow us to reach more people and get feedback from a larger proportion of the community,” says Stober Group community liaison, Mary LaPointe.

The developer says the updated proposal takes into account input received in the past year. A 12-minute video has been produced to fully explain the project.

“We want your input. We need your input. This is your neighbourhood,” she said, adding they are hoping the community watches the video and provides additional feedback, which will be worked into the rezoning proposal that goes before city council.

Glenmore Road going down to single-lane traffic for 2 weeks

Crews will begin paving work on Glenmore Road on Monday, June 29, which will close one lane in each direction for two weeks.

The work will be taking place between Kane Road and Begbie Road and, depending on weather, is expected to be completed by Monday, July 13.

<who>Photo Credit: Google Maps

Photo Credit: Google Maps

“Travelers are encouraged to plan their commute and consider an alternate route during road work,” says a release from the City of Kelowna.

“Transit will continue to operate on its regular schedule but will be making stops in the travel lane. Speed through the construction zone will be reduced to 30km/h.”

<who>Photo Credit: Google Maps

Photo Credit: Google Maps

According to the City, mill and fill treatment of this section of Glenmore Road will extend the road surface life by 15-20 years.

It’s part of the City’s annual Pavement Management Program, which prioritizes repair work on a large number of Kelowna’s roads.

City installs pump downtown

The City of Kelowna has installed a pump at the Water Street boat launch downtown due to high lake levels.

The city’s stormwater collection system typically flows into the lake by gravity, but the elevated lake levels are now preventing that, so the city is having to pump the backed-up stormwater into the lake.

It is expected the pump will remain in place for up to two weeks, depending on the level of the lake.

The equipment and fencing minimally restricts access to the south ramp, but the Water Street boat launch remains open to boaters.The three other boat launches, located at Cedar Creek Park, Cook Road and Sutherland Bay, also remain open.

The city is advising boaters to keep their speed down on the water, especially near the shore, to prevent shoreline erosion while the lake is above full pool. Private property owners who are pumping water from structures are being asked to pump into natural areas such as nearby creeks, ditches or lawns and not into storm drains or the sanitary sewer system.

Pumping into sanitary sewers can overtax the water treatment facility and lead to potential backups of wastewater onto properties.

Okanagan Lake is currently at 342.704 metres above sea level. Full pool is 342.48 metres. Recent rainfall has been pushing the lake level upwards.

Kelowna about to get Lucky

It appears Lucky To Go will be the first ride-share company to hit the streets of Kelowna.

The Victoria-based company was the third to receive a licence to operate in the Okanagan, behind Kabu and Safe Ride Sharing, but it will be the first to market when it begins operations on July 1.

“Kelowna has been super welcoming of this whole concept,” Lucky To Go founder Mandeep Rana said from Victoria on Monday. “It just blows my mind. We weren’t even planning on launching it anytime soon in Kelowna. We were anticipating September as a launch or something like that, post-COVID.

“But it turns out that with the amount of interest we have seen from Kelowna and how welcoming that city is of this ride-share concept, we dropped everything else, and we put Kelowna in first.”

Rana will be coming to Kelowna this Friday and Saturday for driver orientation sessions and to meet with city and airport officials. Anyone interested in driving for the company can check out its website.

Lucky To Go, which got the go-ahead from the BC Passenger Transportation Board on April 22, is unique in that it is partnering with the BC Taxi Association. Lucky To Go will provide the use of its app to BCTA members in return for lease payments.

City of Kelowna apparently hiding biking route

Freelancer JP Squire supplied this map of the Grand Kelowna Triangle.

If you need the Sheriff to “tell you where to go,” he will (with a smile).

Central Okanagan cyclists, walkers, hikers, strollers and roller bladers have regularly used the Okanagan Rail Trail, Mission Creek Greenway and Waterfront Promenade in Kelowna, but only a few riders have put them all together in one outing.

Many years ago, the Sheriff found the accompanying overview map on the City of Kelowna website, kelowna.ca. It was apparently designed to show how many people living within one kilometre — 36,787 in 35.5 square kilometres — would use such a 20.6-kilometre trail. (When the website was upgraded and improved several years ago, it disappeared.)

It was basically a combination of the Mission Creek Greenway, Rails With Trails parallel to Clement Avenue, Abbott Street Recreation Corridor and several multi-use pathways (MUP).

The Sheriff loved the concept and nicknamed it the Grand Kelowna Triangle since it includes the Waterfront Promenade past The Grand Okanagan hotel and is indeed a ‘grand’ three-sided trail.

It’s grand for a number of reasons: it includes this city’s best trails — Greenway, rail trail and waterfront paths; beautiful homes in a heritage area (Abbott Street); one of the oldest and most popular green spaces — City Park; the newer distinctive Waterfront Park with its lagoons and surrounding big-city housing; the natural wild beauty of Rotary Marsh Park; and numerous public parks with grand beaches.

However, the route of the Sheriff’s Grand Kelowna Triangle is different than the map’s.

In the Mission, the Greenway which ends at Lakeshore Road (new parking lot) now connects to the Lakeshore Road Multi-Use Pathway so you don’t have to use Gordon Drive (bottom of map).

In the North End, the rail trail parallel to Clement Avenue is still called Rails With Trails phase 1 and 2. It was built by the city when trains were still using the original rail bed. (The city is considering changing its signs to Okanagan Rail Trail.)

The separate 49-kilometre Okanagan Rail Trail was purchased on June 1, 2015 for $22 million by the local governments between Kelowna and Coldstream.

The ORT Initiative then raised $7.8 million to build it. That included the newest ORT section in Kelowna’s North End, paved last fall, to connect Gordon Drive to Manhattan Drive (parallel to Weddell Place and then along Recreation Avenue).

A wide gravel-and-dirt path through Sunset Drive Park takes you to Rotary Marsh Park and to Waterfront Park.

The 2012 map has the wonderful Cawston Avenue MUP in the North End, but you miss the best waterfront marsh in the city, a great place to stop to view an elevated osprey nest and waterfowl in the marsh.

Two areas of caution:

— Leaving the Lakeshore Road MUP, you wind through back streets to connect to Abbott Street Recreation Corridor (via Watt Road and Walnut Street) where there are no signs indicating the correct route.

— The connection between the Okanagan Rail Trail and Greenway is via ultra-busy Dilworth Drive and Springfield Road to Mission Creek Regional Park. Both streets have bike paths but watch for vehicles making right turns (a friend was hit), use pedestrian-activated buttons and even walk your bike across intersections like a pedestrian.

One final note: the Grand Kelowna Triangle route can be busy on weekends. Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran has threatened to close the Waterfront Promenade and Knox Mountain Park if the public doesn’t practise social distancing. (The Apex Trail is already one-way uphill and Knox Mountain Drive one-way downhill to stop too-close walking.)

In the coming weeks, the Sheriff plans similar Okanagan trail outlines on other popular walking, hiking, jogging and cycling routes. Stay tuned.