Column:Sickle Point park concept comes full circle

On the clear sunny morning of Sunday, Sept. 20, I joined a troop of about 50 people walking north from Kaleden on a vestige of the famous Kettle Valley Railway.

Our path felt like a pilgrimage yet occupied only a short section of the KVR trail system that spans almost 650 kilometres of spectacular Okanagan landscape.

We were walking (cycling and walking are the only access) to a special point, a gentle hook jutting out into the blue waters of Skaha Lake. The odd shape reflects its settler name, Sickle Point.

Sickle Point is one of three Kaleden area promontories identified for their park potential by early Kaleden visionary Jim Richie.

Sadly, Richie’s vision for an orchard- based community with three lakeside parks hit a financial crunch at the onset of World War I and bankruptcy proceedings.

In a strange twist, Sickle Point may yet emerge as parkland due to similar circumstances. Faced with financial challenges, recent ownership has been transferred to the debt holder and Sickle Point is on the market.

Enthusiasm is running high in Kaleden and throughout the conservation, nature preservation community to revive Richie’s original park concept.

Remarkably, there’s little evidence of human habitation on the spit, although about a quarter kilometre of the KVR hides all the contemporary services out to the site. Big dreams of a condo development have not been further realized. Only a central acre has been scoured clean of vegetation, and natural debris has been removed to create a sandy beach.

As I walked, I scanned the lakeshore shallows and reed beds for birds and wildlife. This shallow reedy habitat and low sandy spit is ideal nature habitat, a rarity on Skaha Lake.

Most of Skaha lakeshore is either developed, loose boulders, detritus from building the KVR or steep glaciated rock bluffs.

The other two similar promontories have been private camp and cabin sites for years.

I’ve walked by this intriguing sandy point many times, curious and fascinated by what might hide behind the private fencing. On this morning, in company with park enthusiasts, a realty representative and a contingent of Okanagan environment/ nature specialists, socially distanced and mask wearing, I finally explored its unique features. I walked the boggy wetlands, then across the wet sandy beach to a denser stand of larger trees and undergrowth.

I spotted ring-necked ducks, American coots and widgeons, a flock of Canada geese. Someone thought they’d glimpsed a pin-tail duck, a possible migrant this time of year. Someone else sought confirmation that horned grebes were bouncing around further out.

High above the silt bank pines a light coloured red-tailed hawk revealed itself with its sharp skreeeeeee call.

Among the native wetland vegetation, I recognized wild rose weighted with rose hips, glistening goldenrod, blue elderberry, red osier dogwood, silvery sandbar willow and lots of brushy Saskatoon, common snowberry and rabbit bush in its yellow flowering.

Alas, of the songbirds only a little yellow-rumped warbler wanted to be noticed.

All in all, Sickle Point could be a very fine park for Skaha Lake. Jim Richie would be pleased.

To make a support-the-park pledge visit

Dianne Bersea is a member of South Okanagan Naturalists Society. Views expressed are her own.

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