I can say with certainty that 2023 has been a year of resiliency and resolve in the Lake Country community. 

We saw the community come together and support one another in unprecedented ways during the wildfire in August. The Lake Country firefighters have just completed their annual Food Bank campaign to support residents in our community as the demand for food assistance continues to grow. This year their efforts brought in over $28,000 in monetary contributions and over 11,000 pounds of food donated by caring, generous residents extending themselves to help others.  I am grateful to live in a community where people come together to support each other.

The municipal government is experiencing the same economic challenges faced by residents and local businesses in trying to deliver expected services with an ever-shrinking dollar and competition for supplies and contractor services. I am pleased to highlight a few of the many 2023 projects that are making a positive impact on the lives of community members of all ages and abilities.  

  • We’re not naive to the challenges we’ve had in the building and development permit processing timelines. Focused work is being done to improve and streamline the processes to better serve, not only the development community, but to make it simpler and quicker for the average property owner to initiate projects that improve their property value and lifestyle in Lake Country. We have initiated and are working to change and improve processes, by removing red tape, with the assistance of our Interim CAO we have taken a deep dive into every outstanding application and permit with an eye to develop a smoother, streamlined process.  These processes will be applied to similar applications going forward.   We have engaged a consultant to work with our planning and building team to look at how we can improve our processes on every level. We have also developed a working relationship with the City of Kelowna to access assistance addressing our backlog and working with staff to improve processes as well as looking forward to how we can utilize the application of A.I. systems. The new provincial legislation around building and Short-Term Vacation rentals are factors that will impact planning, permitting, engineering and staff capacity, having a helping hand from our neighbours will be critical to our success. These are priorities for council.
  • Parks and trails were identified by the residents of Lake Country as one of the most important aspects of their quality of life.  We listened – this is evident in the work done by “Walk Around Lake Country (WALC)” volunteers in collaboration with the Parks team.  This has resulted in improved trail mapping and signage, decommissioning, and redevelopment of some key trails for improved safety and accessibility. Check out the online GIS map that functions like an app to allow hikers and bikers to use their mobile devices to explore new routes. Design improvements to Swalwell Park and trail connections along Middle Vernon Creek corridor were considered in a site specific parks and trails design survey. Whiskey Cove Park in Carr’s Landing received a lot of love and attention to make the lake, washroom, and picnic area more accessible for those using mobility devices.  There have been improvements to the Okanagan Centre Greenspace, museum and park area, rationalizing and adding new parking, washrooms, play structure, better trails and stairs accessing the beach with handrails and other upgrades. Along the Rail trail in Oyama a new washroom / changeroom facility built through a generous donation has added more services to that area.
  • The District launched the “MyLakeCountry” online portal for citizens to access property and utility information 24/7. This will expand in the new year to include Business Licences and Building Inspections among other permit applications.  
  • The Lake CounTREE program returned with Lake Country residents purchasing 100 select trees at a subsidized rate to increase and maintain the urban forest canopy in the community, providing a positive impact on the environment. 
  • Live! in Lake Country outdoor concerts, Creekside Theatre performances, ArtWalk, Art Gallery exhibits and programs, and a stunning new “Gratitude” mural commissioned by the Lake Country Public Art Advisory Commission painted on the south wall of Winfield Memorial Hall, highlight some of the diverse arts and cultural opportunities that contribute to the enviable lifestyle experienced in Lake Country. 
  • The Woodsdale Road improvement project this fall was an active transportation and mobility project to address some of the top priorities identified by citizens for improvement in Lake Country – specifically sidewalks, walking paths, and safe biking opportunities to move around the community.  This project also included replacement of culverts, but we know drainage is not as an exciting of a topic as safe walking and cycling is. On the topic of drainage, an Integrated Stormwater Management Plan (ISMP) was presented to Council this fall so we can plan for greater sustainability of services long into the future as Lake Country grows and develops. 
  • An Integrated Transit Strategy survey was launched this fall with the objective of gathering citizen feedback on public transportation service options. Community members were also inspired to participate in a new Accessibility Engagement Group to inform a new Lake Country Accessibility Plan to make our community more inclusive. 
  • Pelmewash Active Transportation Connection Design process – to connect Woodsdale Rd to Pelmewash Parkway - is continuing with consideration to meet functional needs, geotechnical constraints, and honour archeological significance of the area. 
  • In partnership with BC Hydro, an Electric Vehicle Charging Hub is also in the works – we’ll look forward to telling you more about that in the new year. 
  • Water quality is always a priority and this year we were grateful to use a $30,000 grant from the Okanagan Basin Water Board to study the effects of the 2021 White Rock Lake wildfire on our drinking water sources. A Source Protect Plan was created to reassess hazards and vulnerabilities that could affect the safety and sustainability of the District’s water supply and there are recommended risk management actions to address them. Feedback was also sought from the community on Lake Country’s Water Conservation Plan. A Water Availability Workshop was held in November to gather perspectives of residents, agriculturalists, businesses, and stakeholders on the draft Lake Country Water Conservation Plan, these talks will continue to develop a “made in” Lake Country plan.
  • The community embraced the pop-up recycling depot pilot project that ran from March to September to divert recyclables and reduce contamination in curbside recycling carts. Over the six (6) pop-up depot events, 1032 vehicles attended and approximately 108 cubic meters of ‘depot only’ material were collected. Small electronics, light bulbs, and batteries were also diverted.  
  • The Lake Country Fire Department along with the RCMP and BC Ambulance Service delivered a live demonstration to the GESS grad class on the impacts of driving distracted, impaired, or without a seatbelt can mean.  
  • The District also received one-time funding of $6,778,000 from the Province for BC’s Growing Communities Fund, these funds are intended for future infrastructure projects. We are excited to discuss opportunities on how to make the best use of this money during upcoming budget deliberations.
  • We are excited to be moving the Lake Country Business Park plans forward, this is a move to diversify our tax base, and is intended to shift the tax burden from the homeowner, and to provide much needed jobs within our community. 
  • As many other communities are doing, a review of Development Cost Charges has begun, and we are looking at development of design options and servicing strategies for a new Lake Country Business Park. 

It has been a very busy year, and I’m extremely proud of the efforts of community members, volunteers and groups, staff, and Council who have contributed in so many ways to the outstanding camaraderie.  These efforts also contribute to lifestyle, and environmental stewardship we come to enjoy and pride ourselves on here in Lake Country.  All of which makes Lake Country one of the most desirable places to live in BC.  

As we head into 2024, we will do so with a new CAO who will lead us and our community forward. 

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to everyone. 

With gratitude,

Mayor Ireland

We are Lake Country.