A group of 19 Penticton area wineries have sent a letter to Penticton council and the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen urging the local governing bodies to end their bid to bring a proposed 360-cell provincial correctional centre to Penticton.
In March, Penticton council voted to advance — as part of a regional submission — a site on Campbell Mountain and another near the Cantex gravel pit as potential locations for the prison.
Last month, council announced the city will hold a non-binding community opinion poll from June 14 to 18 to gain definitive public input on whether to proceed should the province select one of the Penticton sites.
Proponents for the correctional centre assert that the hundreds of new stable jobs and business opportunities, along with the estimated $200 million worth of construction money, would be a much-needed boost to the local economy.
However, writing on behalf of the wineries, Cynthia Enns of Laughing Stock Vineyards said they believe the prison would have a significantly negative impact on the local wine tourism industry and the city’s overall image.
Enns said that with over 50 wineries within a 20-minute drive of Penticton and nearly 120 within an hour drive, the wine industry is a significant contributor to both the tourism industry and the economy in Penticton in general.
“We are extremely concerned about the proposed B.C. correctional facility due to the fact that we believe this facility will change the fabric and identity of the City of Penticton,” she said. “Although this facility may generate new jobs and economic spinoff in some industries, it is our belief that it will also be decreasing existing and future wine tourism dollars brought into the community and thus negatively impact employment and economic benefit in our industry sector and the community at large.
“We are concerned that the establishment of the prison in our city will lead media and tourists to believe that instead of ‘Penticton and Wine Country’ that this is ‘Penticton and Crime Country.’”
Enns pointed to a recent consumer research report conducted by Penticton and Wine Country Tourism which found wine touring was the most popular activity for recent visitors to Penticton, even ahead of going to the beach.
“Should the proposal to locate the facility up Campbell Mountain road proceed, the negative impact due to the proximity to the Naramata Bench and their 26 wineries would be immediate,” she said.
The 19 wineries are: Black Widow Winery, D’Angelo Estate Winery, Elephant Island Orchard Wines, Foxtrot Vineyards, Hillside Estate Winery, Howling Bluff Estate Winery, JoieFarm Winery, Kettle Valley Winery, La Frenz Winery, Lake Breeze Vineyards, Laughing Stock Vineyards, Nichol Vineyard and Estate Winery, Painted Rock Winery, Pentage Winery, Ruby Blues Winery, Therapy Vineyards, Three Mile Winery, Township 7 and Van Westen Vineyards.