April 15 – 21, 2018 is National Volunteer Week in Canada

Can Bigger be Better?

The District of Lake Country has apparently been our province’s fastest growing municipality for the past few years. A short drive around confirms the trend continues. We’re growing, but are we also becoming a better place to live?

We’re currently going through a new Official Community Plan which will hopefully assist our Council and staff in their long-term planning. I say “hopefully” because we’ve been through OCP’s before and the process doesn’t appear to change much nor, for the most part, do the results. We hire consultants who are tasked with gathering input from area residents as to why we choose to live here, what we do and don’t like about the area, as well as our vision for the future. The results from the questionnaires the consultants develop and the discussions at public interface gatherings usually seem eerily reminiscent of what was said the last time and the time before.

Residents speak of their appreciation of life in a more rural and friendly community, enjoyment of our lakes, the walking trails, and a sense of small-town friendliness. Interestingly these responses essentially echo what has been said in every other OCP. Curiously, when asked how our community might be improved, many of those same respondents talk about their desire for more shopping centers, more sidewalks and street lighting, and larger scale facilities like recreation centers and swimming pools. It’s a strange contradiction: choosing to live in the country and then wanting to citify it.

Another interesting aspect of growth is the common misconception that more growth yields more affordable levels of taxation. I wish this were true, but the reality is that as cities get bigger, taxes get higher. You only need to look as far as Vancouver to know that’s true.

But I digress. Let’s get back to this question of whether we’re becoming a better place to live as we grow so dramatically. This column has chronicled the many benefits that growth in Lake Country has provided, as well as some of the less pleasant ones. Sometimes though it’s the little things that make a difference in the places we live, like knowing your neighbours or a feeling of being a part of a community rather than just living in it. When Elaine and I travel we have often found that the places we enjoy the most always seem to be where we’ve had warm experiences with other people.

There are many great attributes of the community here in Okanagan Center, but perhaps the most special is our wide circle of good friends and neighbours. While there are many ways of developing relationships within our community, sometimes all it takes is stopping for a front yard chat or introducing recent arrivals to others who live nearby. To me, not knowing or caring who lives next door is an attitude that I simply don’t understand.

Another “little thing” that I feel makes a community better and stronger is participation in local activities and organizations.   It’s been another great year of our summertime “Music in the Park” series and I thank Grant Lawrence and his group for getting this going. When he and his group of volunteers stepped back, the District stepped in and with Ryan Donn at the helm has continued its success. Sadly, many other community events and organizations have not been so fortunate. Many will remember our once glorious week-long celebration of Lake Country Days, which died from volunteer “burnout” years ago. Long-time organizers, like George Kozub, sacrificed their time for as long as they could. Unfortunately, no one stepped in to take their place, and the event, like the Carrs Landing Barbecue, Winfield’s Summer Jam, and most recently Okanagan Centre’s CenterPiece, became a footnote in Lake Country history. Of these community events, only Oyama Days seems to have survived.

Our local Rotary Club is just another of many examples of organizations that do important work to improve our community and find themselves struggling with declining membership. I’m guessing that our very important Lions Club faces similar challenges. This struggle to keep long standing events and organizations alive and well is an unfortunate trend. But trends, like bell bottom pants and beehive hairdos, can be changed. Whether you’re a new resident or not, you probably want to live in a Lake Country that’s not just bigger but better. So, get involved. Yes, I know you’re busy with your job, your family, school, etc., and every volunteer I know is busy. But they’re also some of the happiest, most fulfilled people I know because they’re building community…and not just a bigger one; a better one.

Rich Gibbons, Okanagan Centre

This article was previously published in Gibbons’ column Backward Glances in The View in Lake Country, September 8, 2017, p. 9.

April 15 – 21, 2018 is National Volunteer Week in Canada

Get Involved in your Community!