One of the nice things about getting out of town is seeing other cities from an outsider’s eyes, unencumbered by details, facts and boring considerations such as history and reality – as was the case with a recent trip to Osoyoos.
Winding down into the heat bowl on the Crowsnest Highway, you’re struck by one thing – the sun shines here. Most of the time. It’s warm. It’s dry. Orchards produce fruit and wine, with only a fraction of the natural potential tapped, and generate mountains of cash, augmented by constant ringing of cash registers for the tourist trade.
It’s one of the few deserts in Canada, and after spending a few hours there, you really wonder how we actually survive in the West Coast rainforest, mired in dark gloom and rain and fog 11 months of the year.
It’s rarely gloomy here. Paxil profits must plunge. How can you get down when the sun soaks the earth year-round? Can’t we just move Metro Vancouver into the Okanagan Valley?
As an outsider, though, you’re also struck by what you don’t see.
Given the place is a blast furnace of solar energy, you’d think photo-voltaic panels and solar-thermal panels boasting the latest in Chinese technology would carpet the landscape.
In this desert town, if there are any, I couldn’t see them. Actually the only thing I could see was 1960s style hotels and motels filled with yahoo Albertans, revelling in some kind of a time warp. I half expected Elvis to zoom by in a 1957 Chevy convertible.
And I did see lots of green grass next to Osoyoos Lake and wondered about the fertilizer flow and if the community knows about drought-resistant landscaping.
It almost seems like the town time forgot.
It could capitalize even more on what it has that the rest of the country doesn’t. Warmth. Sun. For most of the year. It could start with the highway from Osoyoos to Penticton. Put some solar-powered street lights, call it the solar highway. Come to think of it, the whole province should do likewise. I think there are some dusty villages in Africa who use more solar power than we do.
It also makes you wonder about the natural wealth of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows and the assets we don’t know about that are evident to the outsider.
A recent trip to Whistler showed how we should do things.
On the twisty Sea to Sky Highway, there are now bike lanes on both sides, allowing cyclists to ride the most beautiful highway in the world. Within two years, that Olympic highway project spawned the Gran Fondo bike race, a bonanza for any tourism business along the Vancouver-to-Whistler route.
From Maple Ridge’s western border (Pitt Meadows and Abbotsford already have done this), the Lougheed Highway is a no-brainer for a multi-use bike lane on both sides to prepare for the increasing numbers of electric bikes, scooters, motorized wheelchairs, skateboards, bicycles and motorized bicycles that will be on our streets.
The shoulder’s already there. It just needs widening (to make it easier for me to pedal) and signs in a few places and a bit of money and you have 50 kilometres of bike lanes.
It could serve as the backbone for the Experience the Fraser Project that calls for recreational trails from Hope to Vancouver.
It’s just waiting for an outsider to tell us how to do it.
Phil Melnychuk is a reporter with the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News.