Canyon makes plea for compensation

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The Creston Valley Services Committee has once again heard a plea from the Canyon Community Association for compensation of costs it has incurred due migrant workers.

Association president Deb Nelius told local RDCK area directors last Thursday that the influx of visiting fruit pickers to Canyon Park has led to costs totalling more than $8,000.

“We have a difficult time in paying out bills,” she said at the committee’s regular monthly meeting. “I’m asking you to share what it cost us so we don’t have to bear the burden on our own.”

Nelius cited damage, replacement of shower coin boxes and lost revenue from other campers as contributors to the costs.

She credited a Fields Forward group that includes orchardists for their efforts in finding solutions to provide adequate accommodations and services for transient workers.

“They are a dedicated team, very involved and very informed. This is an unbelievably convoluted issue and there is no easy fix. We are supportive of our regional directors finding a solution to the problem. Without you, this is not going to happen.”

“I see this as a fruit growers’ and farmers’ issue, not a Creston Valley issue,” Area C director Larry Binks, who chairs CVSC, said. “However, I support your efforts.” He committed a $2,500 in March 2017 to help with the CCA’s costs.”

Area B director Tanya Wall, who is part of the Fields Forward committee, asked Nelius if there had been an improvement in 2016 over previous years.

“Canyon Park was not as heavily used this year, with fewer people camping under Canyon Bridge,” Nelius replied. She said regular monitoring by Canyon-Lister Fire Department, the RCMP and Wall herself had helped.

“So with fewer campers there, there were fewer people using Canyon Park facilities and sneaking into camp without paying. But we also had 50 per cent fewer paid campers compared to last year.”

Wall pointed out the accommodation issue is not an industry-wide problem.

“Orchardists have definitely stepped up, but there are still a few who have yet to step up.”

Mayor Ron Toyota was not enthusiastic about compensating CCA for its costs.

“When Director Binks says he will cover costs next year from his funds that’s fine,” he said. “But this is taxpayers’ money.”

Last year, he said, the Town of Creston granted $3,300 from its Columbia Basin Trust Community Initiatives Program funds to Canyon for park improvements, but those funds cannot be used for operations.

“It’s not our money—it’s not coming from our own pockets. It’s a delicate situation. We need to know why some farmers are not participating (in providing adequate accommodation). They are a business and they benefit from these workers.”

A survey conducted by FF this year has provided information about migrant workers wants and needs, Wall said.

“Initially, we thought that one big facility was needed for accommodation, but we talked to pickers and found that’s not what they want. They prefer to stay on the orchards where they work, in a more family-like situation.”

In other CVSC news:

•RDCK emergency preparedness service co-ordinator Alanna Garrett reported that early concerns for a bad fire season eased in the summer.

“In March, April and May we had record-breaking temperatures, but then we got the rains when we needed them. Even lightning strikes were usually accompanied by rain,” she said, adding that the recent Sanca Creek fire had not spread to a wide area.

She also said that the province is moving toward a different emergency approach that focuses on mitigation planning by local governments.

“There is less emphasis on responders and more on planning,” she said.

•Randy Fediuk, Community Complex recreation manager, said that the annual aquatic centre closure had gone well.

“Last year we were unable to empty the pool due to water restrictions, but this year it was emptied for cleaning.”

•After receiving a report from Town of Creston manager Lou Varela, CVSC approved a motion to recommend spending $6,000 from Service 108 economic development funds for initial work on an area signage program, and to request a $2,000 contribution from the Area A economic development committee.