RDCO Board Vice Chair Doug Findlater (L), Chair Gail Given (Centre) and CAO Brian Reardon (R) cut a cake marking the organization’s 50th anniversary while Board Directors Colin Basran, Tracy Gray and Brad Sieben look on.

Celebrating 50 years of the Central Okanagan Regional District

Over the past 50 years, the Kelowna-based board has protected parks, worked emergencies and more

This summer marked the 50th anniversary of the Regional District of Central Okanagan.

On Aug. 24, 1967, then BC Lieutenant Governor, the Honourable George Randolph Pearkes, signed the Letters Patent officially incorporating the regional district. It set the boundary, municipal membership for the City of Kelowna and District of Peachland and the interim board members for the eight electoral areas, given letter designations from A to H.

In the time since, much has changed within the boundary. With growth, some areas were amalgamated, while others like Lake Country and West Kelowna have incorporated changing the composition of the regional board. Today the board make-up is very different with six representatives appointed by the City of Kelowna, two for West Kelowna and one each from the councils of Lake Country and Peachland.

Residents in the two remaining electoral areas (Central Okanagan East and Central Okanagan West) elect their RDCO representatives and the Westbank First Nation council appoints a non-voting member to the Regional Board.

The regional district form of government is unique to B.C. and has grown along with the population in the Central Okanagan, to provide many key services right across the region, from the award-winning innovation of its Economic Development Commission to recycling, dog control, 9-1-1 and regional parks.

As the local government for residents in the electoral areas, the regional district provides community parks, maintains and operates six water systems and oversees four paid-on-call fire departments. It also coordinates land use and planning in these areas. For residents and businesses in West Kelowna, Peachland and the Westbank First Nation reserves, it operates the Westside Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant with its internationally-recognized Westbank treatment process.

“We have so much to celebrate in the Central Okanagan,” said board chair Gail Given. “As a region, we’re blessed with beauty and fantastic natural surroundings, things that people from all over the world come here to visit and enjoy. Our region may have changed with the times, but our regional district remains a cost-effective, efficient and relevant form of local government.

Given went on to credit past leaders from first chair Wally Bennett, and subsequent chairs Andy Duncan, Jim Stuart, Sharron Simpson and its longest serving chair Robert Hobson.

She pointed to the regional parks system as an example of people putting the region first.

”From our first park, Kaloya back in 1974, we now have over 30, protecting almost 2,000-hectares of significant land,” she said. “And we’re grateful for our partnerships that have developed over the years with those who share our vision, like the Central Okanagan Land Trust, Friends of Mission Creek, Gellatly Nut Farm Society and many others. We’re excited about working closely with the Westbank First Nation, not only to protect the Indigenous culture and history, but to expand the awareness and knowledge of this history from time immemorial.”

Given also pointed to the region’s emergency operation program which dates back to the mid 1990s and this year was in operation from early May into September.

”In the years since, first responders and staff from every jurisdiction have worked side by side in the field and at the Emergency Operation Centre to provide a coordinated response to each emergency. You only have to look to this year’s flooding and more recently the Okanagan Centre wildfire, to see this in action,” she said.

“On behalf of the Regional Board, we look forward to another half century of service to the citizens in the Central Okanagan.”