Zero thefts at Penticton’s Skaha Bluffs, thanks to ParkWatch

A program born out of the rise in thefts from climber’s vehicles at Skaha Bluffs last year is reporting a drastic reduction this year.

Ryan Ausbrook and his faithful companion

Ryan Ausbrook and his faithful companion

A program born out of the rise in thefts from climber’s vehicles at Skaha Bluffs last year is reporting a drastic reduction this climbing season.

“The good news is we’ve had zero break-ins since the beginning of our program,” said Rolf Rybak, vice president and regional director of the Climber’s Access Society of B.C.

The program started with a ParkWatch monitor employee on site at the Skaha Bluffs every day since April 15, above and beyond the initial coverage the program was hoping for.

Read more: Program to clamp down on Skaha Bluff thefts

“They’ve been a great deterrent, no one in the climbing community or anywhere else have reported a break-in in the parking lot,” Rybak said.

Adding even more value to the program, Rybak said, is the ParkWatch employees are hired through the help of Penticton and Area Co-operative Enterprises (PACE), giving an employment opportunity to those who face barriers.

“And the money goes straight back to the community, how good is that for a program?” Rybak said. “It’s a real win-win for everyone.”

The program is dependent on grants from the City of Penticton and donations from private individuals and businesses for funding and is continuing fundraising efforts.

“We have increased our coverage, we’re there every day now,” Rybak said.

The ParkWatch monitors also hand out brochures with climbing maps, as well as ICBC advice to keep your care safe, information on protecting the park and best practices and information for those looking to donate to the program.

“We’re constantly looking for corporate or business donations because the climbers have come back this year. Last year we estimate we lost 30 per cent of our climbing visitors because of the break-ins,” Rybak said. “This year the news has gone out really fast, people are coming back.”

Rybak said there is an estimated 85,000 visitors to the bluffs, recognized as one of Canada’s premiere sport climbing destinations.

The most recent economic input study estimated the bluffs bring a $4-million impact into local economy every season.

“This program is dependent on grants and business sponsorships so we’re always looking for opportunities,” Rybak said.

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