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West Kelowna focuses on culture

Community, vibrant, growth, dynamic, welcoming and heritage are some of the most common words residents say should appear in West Kelowna’s Cultural Master Plan vision statement.

They also want more theatre, recreation, music and art options, more cultural venues and more collaboration with Westbank First Nation.

Greg Baeker of Millier Dickinson Blais has been working on the district’s first Cultural Master Plan since September and provided council with an update Tuesday.

The goal of the 10 year plan is to give West Kelowna a guiding document for the development of cultural services and determination of cultural priorities.

So far Baeker has made several observations through discussions with focus groups, online survey submissions and interviews.

A recurring theme is that the Westside is lacking a unique cultural identity, especially when juxtaposed with Kelowna.

Baeker suggested it’s in the district’s best interest to focus on cultural development as it can lead to much-needed economic development.

“If we build communities in which people want to live and work, business and investment follow,” said Baeker.

Coun. David Knowles said it’s important the public is aware of the economic benefits behind promoting culture.

“The emphasis on culture-led economic development (is) the key, and that’s the part a lot of our residents don’t understand.”

Coun. Bryden Winsby noted the district may have to make significant investments in culture to experience economic benefits.

“I’m concerned that we’re simply going to do a cultural development plan because we think we should, and at the end of the day it won’t mean much unless we have clearly delineated what we are prepared as a community to invest in cultural development. And I don’t see it yet,” said Winsby.

Mayor Doug Findlater said there are higher financial priorities on the district’s list than cultural investments, but he said work can be done to make better use of what the community already has.

“Money is a huge (factor) as a young municipality. We have artisans and an artistic community here, but it’s not organized in any way,” said Findlater.

“I think we could play a role in creating a network and helping people organize.”

A forum to gather more public input on the cultural plan was scheduled to take place Wednesday night.

Residents are also invited to submit their thoughts on cultural development at districtofwestkelowna.ca. Entries will be accepted until Dec. 10.

The completed plan is scheduled to come back to council for approval in April 2013.

wpaterson@kelownacapnews.com

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