Okanagan Similkameen Parks Society AGM looks at area’s ecological reserves

Panel of experts will discuss a variety of topics Friday at Summerland's Centre Stage Theatre

Pictured is a section of Big White Ecological Reserve Rim and Bowl. It is  one of 14 reserves in the Okanagan Valley. The protected areas will be the topic of discussion at the upcoming meeting of the Okanagan Similkameen Parks Society.

Pictured is a section of Big White Ecological Reserve Rim and Bowl. It is one of 14 reserves in the Okanagan Valley. The protected areas will be the topic of discussion at the upcoming meeting of the Okanagan Similkameen Parks Society.

Invading ladybugs: fact or fiction?

The answer to this and other environmentally sensitive questions can be found at the upcoming annual general meeting of the Okanagan Similkameen Parks Society.

Threatening insects, a purple-coloured lake and a wide array of reptiles will be just some of the topics of discussion by experts as part of the forum on Friday at Summerland’s Centre Stage Theatre.

For nearly a half century the volunteer agency has worked to convince all government levels of the importance to preserve the ecologically diverse flora and fauna of this region.

“What we hope to do at the meeting is we’re going to acquaint the people with the ecological reserves we have in the immediate area,” said society director Mike Meheriuk, who has been a member of the organization for about 15 years. “Our mandate is to establish new parks where possible in the Okanagan Similkameen areas.

“Most assuredly it is important for the public to get involved because it’s these volunteers who do accomplish a lot and without whose efforts these areas wouldn’t exist at all.”

Special guest speaker Keith Baric, the head of the Ministry of Environment Okanagan planning division, will be joined by local reserve wardens Eva Durance, Laurie Rockwell and Don Guild at the meeting.

Baric is scheduled to provide an overview on the 14 ecological reserves in the Okanagan, four of which are in the southern section: Mahoney Lake, Trout Creek, Haynes and Big White Mountain.

Ecological reserves have been established throughout the province as a means to protect and preserve ecosystems for scientific research, public education and enjoyment.

“These people (speakers), they are the ones who have the expertise as to what exists in each of the ecological reserves and they can tell people who want to visit them just what to expect and to look for,” said the director.

“Also, sometimes these places are in out-of-the-way places so it’s not unusual that people don’t even know they exist and this is a means of letting the public know that they’re there and we would very much like them to go and have a look.”

Established in 1966, the society has a long list of accomplishments to its credit.

Those include being instrumental in securing provincial park status for Cathedral Mountain, Conkle Lake and Okanagan Mountain.

It also purchased 700 acres of winter rangeland for what is now known as the Vaseux-Bighorn National Wildlife Area.

It has recommended to the Ecological Reserves Committee a 200-acre reserve for arid and marsh lands at the head of Osoyoos Lake.

The group is still very much committed to seeing a national park in their region, and while Parks Canada has for now at least scaled back its work on the plan, the society is continuing to move forward.

While the matter is not on the agenda for the meeting, Meheriuk added questions about the concept would be responded to as best as possible.

With about 300 members that includes other organizations with similar pursuits, the director is hoping more people will join in the future.

In addition to new parks and reserves, the society also works with the governments in terms of upgrades to existing protected areas.

Centre Stage Theatre is located in the Summerland Secondary School on Main Street. For more information call 250-494-8996 or visit okanagansimilkameenparkssociety.ca.

Meeting time is 7 p.m. and admission is free with donations welcome.


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