Work aimed at making the strip that runs through Kelowna less of a visual blight should get underway by fall.
In a report that went to council Monday, Andrew Gibbs, manager of park and public space projects, laid out the planning that’s gone into beautifying the medians that span Highway 97, and Mayor Sharon Shepherd couldn’t be happier.
“Build it quickly—thank you,” she said, upon receiving the report.
Shepherd, and numerous others, have lamented the ugliness that runs through the city for years, but it’s been acknowledged improving the aesthetic value wasn’t as simple as planting a few shrubs.
“The Highway 97 corridor through the city is a vital transportation link that has been described by many as an eyesore, as a poor reflection of our community,” said Gibbs.
“To improve this image the city has been gradually landscaping centre medians of this corridor to green it up.”
That effort resulted in landscaped medians on Highway 97 for 6.5 kilometres between Abbott Street and Sexsmith Road.
What’s been left behind, however, was the distance between Burtch and Highway 33.
For years the city has put off the work because of a lack of funds and logistical reasons.
Landscaping, for example, would have been challenging in years past given there wasn’t a water source imbedded in the medians.
That all changed, however, when the B.C. Ministry of Transportation came along with their highway widening project, and as work got underway the city installed a utility conduit to the medians and solved one of the biggest stumbling blocks, allowing planning to continue.
“It is expected that detailed design and costing for the first phase of median construction will be complete in eight weeks and that, subject to ministry permit approvals and project pricing, construction will appear in the fall,” he said.
The proposed first phase is in front of Orchard Park Mall, between Cooper and Dilworth and if the mayor gets her way it will extend even further.
“I’m just so happy to see it,” Shepherd said, adding she’d like to get the foliage to extend to the airport.
“Then we need the university and the province to help (pay).”