Last week at the grocery store, my friendly neighbourhood cashier was complaining to the customer ahead of me about potential tax implications of building my town’s waterfront pathway beyond its current limits.
“Don’t you like the one we already have—wouldn’t more simply be better?” I asked, incredulously, when it was my turn.
“Sure, but I don’t want my taxes to go up for it,” she said. She was noticeably put-off by the idea and if she’d looked up from the register, she’d have noticed I was equally baffled.
Peachland is a peach of a town. It has one of the most delightfully active waterfronts in the Okanagan, and that’s impressive considering its population base is downright piddly.
On any given day once the sun rises above the valley hundreds of people walk along that pathway, with their pets, little people or on their own.
They’re happily and respectfully enjoying the real attributes of this valley. I know, because I see them as I walk my dogs and little people on the same route. Rarely do I find dog-doo rammed into the cement, or cigarette butts lining the space. There aren’t drunks meandering about, scantily clad, as is the case on some Okanagan waterfronts.
Or, if there are, they’re seriously outnumbered by those who are just padding along, smiling at each other, making eye contact and generally engaging with the rest of humanity, before they go off and engage in the local economy.
Not too far away from my Peachland path is Penticton’s KVR multi-use trail—another favourite.
When my two-year-old and I have our Sunday Fun-day event, we go for a walk, look at the sweeping expanse of lake in the distance and kick a ball along the trail. Then go for some tasty nosh at the Bench Market down the road.
Our entry point to that trail is a densely populated neighbourhood, and I sometimes think its residents would be annoyed by the parking that accumulates as people make their way to enjoy the amenity.
Then one of them pops out of their door, smiles and gets on with their day, which sometimes means the path as well, by bike or foot or whatever.
There are moments when the valley seems almost perfect, but you know what would make it even better? That same kind of pathway linking us to the North Okanagan. You know, like the rails and trails one that would take over the old CN line.
Now, I’m not a font of positivity when it comes to the Okanagan. Having lived in just about every city from Penticton to Vernon, I have a fair number of gripes. I took part in a post high school exodus. I returned a decade later to be blocked from homeownership, because of a gap between my wages and the cost of living.
Fast forward another decade, and now I have my own little human and I worry about the opportunities that will be allotted to him, if my family stays put.
These dilemmas are all a part of living in the Okanagan. But so is engaging in the gorgeous scenery we’re blessed to be planted in, and these multi-use pathways are a key piece of that, making them well worth the relative pittance that would be tacked onto the tax roll to grow and improve the network of them, wherever they may be.
I know we’re taxed for everything in B.C. We even pay MSP while the vast majority of other Canadians don’t. That to me is worth storming the legislature about, but don’t block a chance to enjoy what makes this valley worthwhile.
Or, if you do, make sure you’ve done it fully knowing what you’re missing. Go out and try the paths I mentioned. Soak in the clean air, the smiles and the views, then tell me if taxes are still top of mind.