The Osoyoos Desert Centre is getting a new boardwalk and the Nk’Mip Cultural Centre is getting new programming and funds to construct a pit house thanks to economic recovery funding for tourism.
A Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program (CERIP) grant from the province to the tune of $834,789 announced recently will go towards replacing the 1.5-kilometre boardwalk at the Desert Centre.
“We are absolutely thrilled about this. It is just incredibly great news for us and really, really will have a significant impact on the Osoyoos Desert Centre of course,” said Jayme Friedt, managing director with the Osoyoos Desert Society.
The Desert Society formed in 1991 with the goal of working towards protecting endangered antelope brush ecosystem. In 1998, the Osoyoos Desert Centre was opened and half of the boardwalk was constructed, with the latter half constructed a year later.
The boardwalk is constructed out of treated wood and every year requires regular maintenance and has come up on the end of its lifespan.
“After 22 years, as you can imagine, keeping up with just mere maintenance is getting more and more difficult. It really is at the end of its life now. It’s definitely been on the minds of our board members and staff for a couple of years now,” Friedt said.
“(The grant funding) was a real Godsend for us. A really, really great opportunity for us to replace our boardwalk, but also the objective of the grant is to stimulate the economy.”
The goal of the provincial funding is to create a better tourism product to attract visitors to the area and create jobs through the construction of the boardwalk itself and a possible increase in programming at the Desert Centre.
“We’re a year into COVID and the tourism industry has been really hard hit with travel restrictions, etc. We’re thrilled to replace our boardwalk but we’re also really happy that this project is going to bring along with it some economic stimulus for our communities and the people who live in this area,” Friedt said.
“As an environmental awareness and conservation organization the more people we can expose to our beautiful natural spaces, our beautiful habitat, our species, the flora and fauna that exist here, the more people we can expose to our area here the happier we are, for sure.”
Grant for new pit house, program at Nk’Mip Centre
The Osoyoos Indian Band was also recently the recipient of grant funding from the First Peoples’ Cultural Council as part of the province’s infrastructure grant funding.
The band was awarded $400,000 for the construction of a traditional pit house, a dwelling historically used by Indigenous people living in the region, and a new program at the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre.
The OIB’s Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre is vital to sharing and preserving Okanagan (Syilx) culture and an essential vehicle for teaching Okanagan identity, culture and work ethic to OIB youth, said Chief Clarence Louie of the Osoyoos Indian Band and chair of the Nk’Mip Desert Heritage Society.
“Sharing our history and culture comes at a big cost. Financial support, like the Indigenous Cultural Heritage Infrastructure Grant we have received from the First Peoples’ Cultural Council and the Government of B.C., is necessary to move forward with the next phase of our centre’s growth to construct a traditional Pit House and a revitalized interpretive program that includes rich cultural and historical stories, conservation and connection to the land,” Louie said.
Dale Boyd, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Times-Chronicle