Osoyoos Desert Centre has received $834,789 in economic recovery infrastructure funding to replace its 22-year-old wooden boardwalk that has become such a big tourist attraction.
The Desert Centre will use the provincial grant to replace the 1.5 km elevated boardwalk trail that showcases Canada’s only semi-arid desert.
“This funding is a dream come true,” says Osoyoos Desert Society president Lee McFadyen. “The boardwalk is essential to the Osoyoos Desert Centre’s visitor’s experience. It takes them on a meander through the heart of the antelope brush and watchful eyes may catch glimpses of butterflies, nesting bluebirds feeding their young, an active little Nuttall’s cottontail, spadefoots at different stages of their life cycle, or a snake sunning on the warm sand.
“Last summer, we even had a badger living at the centre. Rebuilding our deteriorating boardwalk means we can provide safe access to this wonderful habitat for people of all ages and abilities for many years to come.”
The funding is provided under the Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program (CERIP) announced last fall to help bolster the recovery of B.C.’s tourism industry impacted by COVID-19.
“Helping create jobs and increase tourism to our region is a great opportunity that we fully embrace,” said the centre’s managing director Jayme Friedt. “Our boardwalk was the initial capital investment of the Osoyoos Desert Centre back when it opened in 1998 and has become the centre’s signature attraction. After 22-years, it is definitely coming to the end of its life.”
Showcasing Canada’s unique “pocket desert,” the Osoyoos Desert Centre stewards 67-acres of endangered habitat and welcomes 10,000 visitors from around the world each year. Visitors explore the South Okanagan’s desert ecology and learn about the conservation of endangered species and habitats through guided and self-guided tours along the boardwalk trail.
The centre also features an interpretive building with several interactive displays and a native plant demonstration garden.
The Osoyoos Desert Centre is open annually from May to October. This year opening day is set for May 1. Construction on the project will begin after the centre closes for the 2021 season in October and be completed by spring of 2022.
The $400,000 awarded to the Osoyoos Indian Band will go towards the construction of a traditional Pit House and a new interpretive program that includes cultural and historical stories and conservation of the land at theNk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre.