There is some relief coming in the form of more parking spots near the Kangaroo Creek Farm in Lake Country for next year.
But it’s going to cost the owners of the farm around $30,000 to renovate a parking lot and lease it from the district next year as well as about $15,000 in each of following two years.
The Kangaroo Creek Farm and the District of Lake Country have entered into a lease agreement for the parking lot at the corner of Main Street and Hill Road in downtown Winfield to create at least 28 parking stalls, the number required of the farm according to Lake Country bylaws.
Costs to renovate the now-vacant lot owned by the district will be handled by Kangaroo Creek at an estimated cost of $15,000, said owner Caroline MacPherson. The lease agreement, she said, will cost the farm $15,000 in each of the three years on top of the dollar amount to get the parking lot up to grade.
Parking at the farm had become an issue due to its phenomenal growth since it opened in 2012. Close to 100,000 visitors travelled Kangaroo Creek this year with the majority coming in July and August. Many people parked in businesses around the area and along Main Street but district bylaws call for businesses to have their own dedicated lot.
MacPherson says while it’s going to cost them a significant amount, she’s hopeful it eases concern of anyone who thinks parking was an issue.
“I think it’s positive,” she said. “We should be able to get at least 30 cars in there and because those spots will be closer to us than the parking lot at the A and W or Coopers or the professional building, then hopefully that will fill up first and will take the pressure off surrounding businesses. Hopefully this will satisfy the district and satisfy those people who are concerned about parking. And it means we are here for the foreseeable future.”
Now closed for the season until spring break of 2016, the Kangaroo Creek Farm has exploded in popularity to become known worldwide and be one of, if not the busiest tourist attractions in the Okanagan Valley.
This year visitor numbers jumped again, continuing a trend that began after the farm opened in 2012 with about 30,000 visitors.
According to MacPherson, each year the number of visitors to the farm have increased by about one-and-a-half times the previous year. The increase in traffic both in vehicles and on foot has caused a ripple effect, prompting the agreement to open up the parking lot and also leading the farm to charge a fee this past summer for the first time, moving away from its admission by donation business.
This past year also saw the farm expand over Middle Vernon Creek to a six acre parcel that will become home to the larger animals and allows for some more space for both visitors and animals alike.
“The plan moving forward is to sort the animals by size,” she said. “We want to have the bigger species in the new section which we have called the Outback, and the smaller species in the front. We’d like to get some other things going in the Outback, a creek walk and hopefully we can get the local fish and wildlife club involved.”
MacPherson said an expected increase in traffic next year will likely offset the costs associated with the new parking lot and added she is continually amazed at the popularity of the the venture.
“It’s gotten to the point where the farm is a bit of a phenomenon, it’s almost a force unto itself,” she said, noting if the growth in visitors continues over the next two years, they may have to further increase admission, especially in July and August when visitors are close to 90 per cent tourists.
“It could turn out that we have peaked out and if that’s the case we can carry one exactly the way we are,” said MacPherson. “Maybe we won’t experience such extreme growth. But if we do experience that kind of growth next year we can’t allow that to happen again in 2017. We may have to jack our visitation rates up in July and August (2017). If we do that we have not done it out of greed but to control the numbers in the peak of July and August.”
The Kangaroo Creek Farm will open again for Spring Break next year before opening for the season in April.