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Summerland, British Columbia

Summerland (2006 population 10,828) is a community on the west side of Okanagan Lake in the interior of British Columbia, Canada. The town is between Peachland to the north and Penticton to the south. The largest centre in the region is Kelowna, approximately 50 km to the north (via Highway 97), and Vancouver is approximately away to the west.

History

The town's Mayor is Dr. David Gregory, a dentist. The town is generally considered to be multi-cultural and tolerant. While most of Summerland's population are Caucasian of mixed European extract, there is a small number of citizens who are of Native, Indian or Japanese decent. Summerland also has an unusually high percentage of retirees and wealthy senior citizens in its population.

Electoral representatives

The town's (2007 federal) Member of Parliament is Stockwell Day, currently Public Safety Minister in the Conservative Government of Stephen Harper. Its (provincial) Member of Legislative Assembly is Liberal cabinet minister; Rick Thorpe.

Geography

Summerland is located within the Thompson-Okanagan Plateau ecoregion. This is one of the warmest and driest ecoregions in Canada. It is characterized by rolling plateaus and major valley systems of the Okanagan, Thompson and Nicola rivers. The mean annual temperature of the major valleys is approximately 10°C with a summer mean of 21°C and a winter mean of -3.5°C; however, winter months are often very temperate and cold weather only usually lasts no more than a few weeks, while summer months often see drought with high daytime and cool nighttime temperatures. The worst drought seen in recent years was during the summer of 2003, when the town's water restrictions were almost incapable of ensuring a water supply through to the beginning of the next annual replenishment cycle. Since then, awareness of the real need for water conservation measures has begun to be taken seriously, and permanent water use restrictions are now in place.

The immediate ecosystem consists of arid grasslands in a matrix of bluebunch wheat grass and sagebrush amongst scattered Ponderosa pines. The region has a gently rolling surface covered mainly by glacial deposits. Summerland is home to an extinct volcano, known locally as Giant's Head Mountain - so-named for its gigantic facial profile as viewed from the southeast. This "hill" dominates the town's land features and provides an hour's hike to the top for an expansive view up and down the Okanagan Valley.

The range of representative wildlife around Summerland includes mule deer, Canada geese, California quail, ravens, coyotes, blue grouse, bald eagles, and black widow spiders. Back into the hills surrounding Summerland there live black bear, white-tailed deer, moose, cougars and bobcats, California big-horn sheep, mountain goats, and rattlesnakes.

Education

There are two Elementary Schools(Giant's Head and Trout Creek), one Middle School (Summerland Middle), and one Secondary School(Summerland Secondary) which comprise Summerland's public school system. Additionally, there are two private schools (a Montesorri school, and an exclusive preparatory school [The Glenfir School]), and a large number of home-schooled students.

Tourism

Summerland is popular because of its idealic situation on Okanagan Lake, a playground for three major Canadian population centres (Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton). Both tourism and tourist attractions were once a major industry, but are quickly disappearing under pressure from residential subdivision developers. Agriculture, featuring fresh tree fruits (peaches, cherries, apples and pears), and canneries, were the economic engine of the region until the late 20th Century, when focus shifted away from tree fruits and over to grape production in support of the wine industry. Now, Summerland finds itself central to several world renouned wineries, and, despite being located in an arid desert region, it has several golf courses. Summerland is also home to the historic Kettle Valley Steam Railway.

Contemporary issues

As in most of the Okanagan Valley, Summerland's real estate market is currently growing at an alarming rate. One contentious issue concerning the majority of long established residents is the town's ongoing loss of its "small town atmosphere" and its resulting affordability as rapid expansion proceeds in response to pressure from real estate developers wishing to build luxury housing and recreation playgrounds for, and then lure, still more retirees to Summerland. Among citizens' concerns are issues regarding appropriate allocation of limited water supplies, sustainable and responsible land use, escalating cost of living, steadily diminishing availability of affordable housing, impending tax increases in order to sponsor growth infrastructure costs, scarce good employment opportunities, and the soaring local cost of meeting the demands and special needs of an increasingly unbalanced age and economic demographic. Still, others believe that expansion should simply proceed in order to capitalize on current market trends and demands, that service industry jobs which should follow will bring great prosperity and thus provide benefits to the community into the immediate future, and that any negative long term consequences will be for future generations to redress.

Many local species, such as the Tiger Salamander, are now endangered due to the loss of habitat to expanding residential, recreational, and vineyard development. Other areas of environmental concern include deterioration of the valley's air shed due to population growth (more vehicles), as well as frequent boil water advisories due to inconsistency in source water quality.

References

External links

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