It should have been clear from the start—when a tin welcome sign painted to resemble wood went up at both entrances to West Kelowna on Highway 97—use of natural materials is not a high priority with our newest municipality.
That choice was particularly ironic when you consider one of its biggest employers, and a historic one at that, makes the production of wood its business. Gorman family members are also renowned for service to the community, so it must have seemed like quite a slap in the face to see the fake wood signs go up.
But now we also have fake grass adorning the medians on West Kelowna’s beautiful new Wine Route—interspersed with real trees, I’m relieved to see. I’m a glass-half-full kind of person, so I’m clutching at the fact that at least plastic trees weren’t used in the new design.
I can quite honestly say I love the decorative lamp standards which direct light to the roadway instead of polluting the entire region with light at night, a danger to all night flying birds who can become disoriented in such intense lighting.
They’re really attractive too, but somehow the intensely-green plastic molded to the median underneath strikes a discordant note, particularly in mid-winter, when your mind knows it can’t be real grass that colour.
Engineering manager Rob Mueller explains that no water will be wasted irrigating it, nor will any workers’ lives be endangered by having to weed or maintain it, plus the raised median may help prevent a serious accident on an icy winter day.
But, doesn’t anyone realize in a few years that fake grass will become dirty and tattered and it will have to be consigned to the landfill?
In the meantime, instead of accepting runoff and filtering it; giving off oxygen and cooling the surrounding air, which real plants would do there, this material will create more runoff, perhaps with a little of itself added; and it will tend to heat the surrounding air even further on a hot summer day.
The Okanagan’s natural beauty is not in its green-ness, but in the silver-gray of sage and the many shades of brown and beige, punctuated by the bright colours of native flowers and fall leaves, like those of sumac and sunflower, rabbitbrush and yarrow.
Let’s stop trying to import the beauty of tropical rainforests instead—particularly with faux touches using un-natural materials.
I have to wonder if the same council members who approved this are unpacking their fake Christmas trees this week; dusting off the grime from previous years and trying to push the plastic branches into the right shape to resemble the real thing.
Guess where those things will end up after a few years?
By the way, my annual Christmas column is coming up next week, so if you have any gift ideas for outdoors people, send them along asap and I’ll include them.