Princess Margaret Secondary School student Sydney Olexa (front) along with (from left to right) Laura Cincone, Sydney Shular and Ahsan Sattar were among many from the school who were helping with sandbagging efforts at the Penticton Yacht Club on Tuesday. Kristi Patton/Western News

Students pitch in to help yacht club

Princess Margaret Secondary School students help with sandbagging efforts on Okanagan Lake

Many hands make light work.

In the case of sandbagging at the Penticton Yacht Club there was a lot of that happening this past week, including students from Princess Margaret Secondary School volunteering to get a grip on the rising water of Okanagan Lake.

As Bruce Merit, fleet captain at the yacht club, watches the morning crew of students fill sandbags and stack them up he steps in a puddle with water bubbling to the surface through one of many cracks in the cement. He shakes his head in disbelief, pointing out it is one of many seeping lake water into their parking lot.

“We bypassed the great flood of 1948. This is the new normal maybe. Instead of a 200 year flood, maybe it will be a 20 year occurrence. It’s just unfortunate. A Mother Nature occurrence that you can’t get mad at anybody for it. She is maybe a little bit ticked off at the world right now,” he said.

Last weekend the club closed the boat launch and the gas dock as water levels rose to the point where wave action and the ground water has made the area unsafe to operate. That means boats that make any wake are advised to stay off the water. Despite that Merit remains in good spirits.

“There is lots of room on the lake now for kayaks, canoes, stand up paddle boarders and sail boats,” he said.

Through the efforts of volunteers from the Penticton fire department, B.C. Forestry, yacht club members and now high school students the great wall of sandbags continues to grow (estimated at 75,000 disbursed throughout the community).

“I think it is great, especially the young kids stepping up to the plate like that. I don’t remember doing things like that on this level. I was in the boy scouts and all that stuff selling cookies but some of these kids have been putting in three or more hours to help out,” said Merit of the students who were working in shifts on Monday and Tuesday at the yacht club and at the Penticton fire hall making and moving sandbags.

The students put in close to 350 man-hours of work in on Tuesday.

“It is there community. There is not a kid in our school that doesn’t spend time on the beach, they have a vested interest here,” said teacher Don Grant.

“We try to push respect, integrity and to give back and they are certainly giving back as you can see.”

Grade 10 student Alice James said it was hard work, but it is bringing them closer to the community.

“I really enjoy it because it feels good knowing we are able to help,” said Grade 9 student Kayla Francisco. “I think if you have the ability to help there is no reason why you shouldn’t