A Prison in Summerland, BC? No: Oliver.

Correctional facility approved for Oliver, BC

Summerland ‘No Prison’ Group ~ Press Release

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PRESS RELEASE: March 10, 2011

In a city with a population of 200,000 a prison can be lost in the landscape but in a town the size of Summerland it is more likely to define it. Summerland residents are embroiled in a fierce battle resulting in the town being split down the middle. The provincial government is searching for a location to build a maximum-security remand centre, which will also house inmates with sentences of two years less a day, and Summerland is one of the towns in the running. For the locals who have lost jobs related to agriculture, the construction of a prison appears to be a way to create new ones.

For others in the town whose primary business is centered on tourism, a prison is believed to be an unwelcome and ill-advised scheme that will not only damage Summerland esthetically but will also leave an unwanted impression of an area that has been known to many as Canada’s Tuscany. Those who are for it will argue that there are prisons that have successfully been incorporated into the daily life of those living in other communities and those against it will say that it will irrevocably damage Summerland’s idyllic image as well as its future as a tourist destination.

After a meeting, held March 7 with representatives from the provincial government and local council, residents from within the Summerland community completed an exit survey.  52% of respondents were in favour of having the prison, 45% were not and 3% were undecided. The purpose of the meeting was for the government representatives to present their proposal along with the town council’s recommendations for five potential locations for the prison’s construction.

It could well be the case that the decision regarding the location has already been made and the BC Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General’s office is just going through the motions befitting a democratically operated system. However there are a group of Summerland businesses that believe by saying yes to a prison their livelihoods may be in jeopardy and want to ensure this proposal does not get approval.

This issue, which has resulted in a small and friendly rural town becoming angry and polarized, shows no sign of abating until perhaps, the outcome is known. And even then there will be people who will choose to no longer be patrons of establishments based on whether they were for or against it. If the location has in fact already been decided then it is a contentious issue that could have been avoided. The time and taxpayer money that has been wasted to date, is incalculable. Not to mention the long standing friendships and business relationships that are now in limbo thanks to what seems to be a dysfunctional system with an equally dysfunctional mandate and modus operandi.

If I were to paint the perfect picture, it would be of Summerland, which is a unique rural gem; a charming and quiet community for retirees and those wanting to leave behind the fast pace of the city.

Situated on the edge of Okanagan Lake, this small town of 11,000 with its primary business of agriculture has also been steadily increasing its tourism business. In addition to a stunning location, Summerland offers great family fun at its many summer events. The Kettle Valley Railway, with 28,000 visitors yearly, entertains guests with live banjo music and authentic reenactments of train robberies as the train meanders through orchards and vineyards. Bottleneck Drive, a newly formed local wine route of twelve award-winning wineries is also a huge draw for tourists. This tour provides dancing to live music on winery patios, picnicking in vineyards and being chauffeured in vintage convertibles for sampling wines along the wine route.

There are also numerous events ranging from the Feast of Fields, which is held in a farmer’s field for those delighting in the gourmet offerings of local restaurants and organic farms, to the Ride the Giant (a longboarding event), which draws 1500+ visitors.  There is a new mountain biking event called the Test of Humanity, which has been designed to bring biking enthusiasts from all over to compete.

With summer markets, vintage car shows, and boating on the lake, Summerland is in the enviable position of being a destination in its own right, and outwardly, it appears to be idyllic.

With a prison located in Summerland my perfect picture could no longer be painted in the same light.  Summerland is a small rural community with a population of 11,000.  The presence of a prison will not go unnoticed in this community, no matter where it is located.  In the very near future the people of Summerland will need to make what is perhaps the most important decision they have ever had to make regarding the image and direction of their town.

With almost an equal split in the community and a seemingly insignificant number of voters it would seem unreasonable to base the community’s future on such a weak show of affirmation.  But all the same this does seem to be the direction our town council is being forced into, as they have been given the so called mandate by the community to proceed in this process.

Would it not be better for our community to pool its resources and devise ways to increase tourism?  Could we not make agriculture a more viable option, increase job opportunities by increasing development in a reasonable manner?  Surely this would help draw people here for the right reasons.  If we do not take the initiative then decisions will be made that may irrevocably change the face of Summerland forever.  Are we so confident that a prison will not redefine Summerland in a negative way?  Once we make this decision there is no going back.  Do we really want to take that chance?

For more info please see our blog at www.summerlandbc.wordpress.com

Written by summerlandbc

March 28, 2011 at 7:07 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Well said !!!! Thank you for this:)

    K. Staley

    March 29, 2011 at 1:09 pm

  2. I totally agree with this!

    Karen Anton

    April 10, 2011 at 12:08 pm


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