Community Papers

TOP 40 UNDER 40: Baughen: Passion for community and environment

Cameron Baughen, the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen solid waste management co-ordinator has his hands full with the in-house worms in front of his office. This week’s Top 40 Under 40 recipient has worked with a number of community organizations as both an entrepreneur and volunteer.  - Mark Brett/Western News
Cameron Baughen, the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen solid waste management co-ordinator has his hands full with the in-house worms in front of his office. This week’s Top 40 Under 40 recipient has worked with a number of community organizations as both an entrepreneur and volunteer.
— image credit: Mark Brett/Western News

Cameron Baughen didn’t have to look for the reason that environmental studies became such a passion for him.

Baughen grew up in Carr’s Landing, on the shores of Okanagan Lake, where for years the ugly scar of a stalled housing development could be seen cutting into the hillside across the lake.

“I was pretty lucky to grow up there, but looking across at that big development really affected me and I realized I wanted to help protect the environment,” said Baughen, who is the solid waste management co-ordinator at the Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen.

Many people will recognize Baughen from the talks he gives around the regional district educating both youth and adults on composting and other environmental topics.

That’s a big part of the job, he said, and one he has been interested in since his university days, when he was involved with campus radio and newspapers.

“I got really involved with media, and the same time I got interested in teaching. So after I graduated, I volunteered and met with people that were in environmental education,” said Baughen, adding that some of his summer jobs were doing environmental education programming.

“I would set up field camps or I would go to classrooms and teach about the environment.

“That was really a passion of mine, so I really stuck with it in terms of trying to get some background and volunteering.”

Though Baughen admits his position has widened its scope to include working on large capital projects, like the RDOS’s solid waste management plan or developing other strategies to deal with waste, like the sorting facility for demolition and renovation waste opening soon at the Okanagan Falls landfill, education remains an important part of the job, outreach work he calls “incredibly valuable.”

One sign of how valuable it can be is a partnership Baughen has developed with the Penticton Community Gardens. Baughen began educating about the value of worm composters — he keeps a functional one in the RDOS office — and eventually developed a partnership with the gardens to build composters, which are sold through the RDOS for a $25 donation to the gardens.

It’s a partnership that has earned the community garden society about $1,400 so far.

“Most communities buy these compost bins, made somewhere else,  then spend money to subsidize them and they don’t provide the worms,” said Baughen.

“Here we work with the community gardens: they build them, they get a donation from people that want to purchase the worm compost bins, then we provide the worms for free.

“The only thing I do is make sure they are educated so they know what they are getting into.”

Baughen’s work with campus media helped lead him into environmental education, but it also led him to a passion for community radio.

When he moved back to the Okanagan a decade ago, Baughen was surprised to realize there was no campus or community radio station in such a large centre, even though smaller communities all around were making it work.

He worked on a community radio project in Kelowna for a while, but about four years ago, realized that Penticton might be an ideal community for a radio station.

“There are a lot of good people down here interested in radio,” said Baughen. When he called a meeting to discuss the idea, 50 people turned out.

The Peach City Community Radio Society is well on the way to setting up a regularly broadcasting station.

They’ve done several live broadcasting events and recently started streaming their broadcasts online 24 hours a day.

Baughen was the society’s first president, and remains heavily involved with the work needed to get the community station on air.

“I had done my two terms and I was very happy to sit down and take more of an advisory role. I probably do as much as I did before, it’s just I am not the face of it anymore,” said Baughen. “I have got more involved with our community support committee, which is mostly fundraising. So I have been working on that, trying to develop different strategies to raise funds and make the station viable.”

And if that is not enough to keep Baughen busy, he’s also helping build a disc (frisbee) golf course in the Esplanade area off Vancouver Avenue. While there are no maps yet, they are working on fine-tuning the position of the tone poles and tee-off points.

“There is a portion of it just below the community garden, but when you walk through to the esplanade portion there is six holes over there,” said Baughen. “It’s just a fun cheap sport for people. It’s very similar to golf without all the green fees.”

Penticton Top 40 under 40 is presented by the Prospera Credit Union in partnership with the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce, JCI Penticton with support from Community Futures Okanagan Similkameen.

Nominations should be sent to manager@penticton.org with the subject line ‘Top 40 Nomination.’ Please include nominees contact info and a brief reason for nomination.

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