Peter Madsen holds a trimmer he uses to cutting branches off of trees in order to prepare for wildfire season at his property at the Oyama Zipline Adventure Park. - Jennifer Madsen

Lake Country zipline company ‘cautiously optimistic’ heading into wildfire season

With smoky skies for the past two years, Oyama Zipline Adventure Park opens April 20

Lake Country outdoor adventure park owners are “cautiously optimistic” for their 2019 season.

Set to open April 20, Jennifer and Peter Madsen are ready for the season at Oyama Zipline Adventure Park, but say the last two seasons have been challenging, which they attribute to smoke from burning wildfires and a downturn of the Alberta economy.

“We’d like to totally blame it on the wildfire season, but I don’t know that’s the whole story because we were off in our numbers even before the smoke hit,” Jennifer said.

Peter said in preparation for the season, they spent about $5,000 towards wildfire mitigation, cleaning up the forest floors, cutting limbs from trees and trimming up the grasses. Overall, they’ve spent about $30,000 over the years to make the property is as clean as possible in preparation for the dry season, Peter said.

READ MORE: A year after the Okanagan Centre wildfire, Lake Country residents return home

“We’re doing our part but we had hoped that the province would do more in stopping these fires when they’re small instead of smoking everybody out and killing our business,” he said.

The pair noted they’ve seen controlled burns in the area, but said it would be nice for local governments to create that requires landowners to clean up fuels.

“I know it’s a lot of work, we have 72 acres and we work hard to do as much as we can in our limited time… we do invest quite a bit of money, it’s for our benefit but it’s also for our neighbours and the whole hillside will benefit from it,” Jennifer said.

Peter said if there is money available for mitigation on private properties, he would love to be helped.

READ MORE: Water rate increases, a wildfire mitigation grant and more discussed at council

The pair have been open since 2011, heading into their ninth season in Oyama.

“I hope that the forests stop burning but I know there’s climate change going on and different weather patterns we haven’t seen,” Jennifer said.

“We say things could change on us, but I have a good feeling about this year, for the first time in the last three or four years,” Peter said.

Matt Vader, manager of strategic and support services, said the district is putting together an overarching wildfire mitigation plan, with the expectation that it will be presented to council in May.

READ MORE: Lake Country staff work to mitigate wildfire risk in Okanagan Centre

“There will be some recommendations and some potential funding we’ve identified through some grant opportunities,” he said.

There’s a potential for a rebate program for dollars that the public’s spent on wildfire mitigation for private properties, but research still needs to be done on what that looks like, he said.

Lake Country applied for up to $100,000 from the Community Resiliency Investment program, which is a new provincial program intended to reduce the risk of wildfires in communities across B.C. in December.

READ MORE: VIDEO: Behind the scenes of wildfire training ahead of B.C’s busiest season

The district is also seeking another grant worth $20,000 from Forest Enhancement Society of British Columbia in order to focus on wildfire risk reduction in the Beaver Lake and Oyama Lake Watersheds.

READ MORE: B.C. works to prepare for future wildfire, flood seasons

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