In my 16 years, give or take, of covering the arts and entertainment scene in the North Okanagan, there is one sentence that I occasionally hear that cuts me to the core:
“There’s nothing to do here.”
To be honest, when I hear that remark, and you can insert a few more exclamation marks to my response, it really makes me cringe.
There’s nothing to do here? Where have you been living?!
It makes me wonder where the heck these people are getting their information from.
It’s definitely not from local tourism and cultural organizations, chamber of commerces, real estate agents, downtown business improvement areas, municipal governments, and those positive re-enforcers known as volunteers, who are always extolling the virtues of living here in the North Okanagan.
Our pages are often filled with all manner of artists, businesses, non-profit organizations, and facilities such as galleries, cultural centres, theatres, ski hills, recreation organizations, sports facilities, nature centres, conservation areas, live music venues, cinemas (oh, I could go on…) that fulfill our lives – and that includes youth, too, with more things to do than you can shake a stick at.
Yes, some of them cost money. But many of them don’t. Have you been to Kal Park lately? It’s glorious there this time of year.
I think there could be a reason for some of this malaise in finding positive things to rave about in our community, and all you have to do is visit some of those community “forums” on social media.
In my opinion, it seems that, as of late, too much has been focussed on the bad things in our community, especially the perceived increase in crime, along with correlating issues of homelessness, panhandling and drug activity, than the good.
I hate to remind people, but these kind of things have been happening in all communities, big and small, since humans started socializing outside the cave.
At least we seem to have a city council (and I don’t always give props to politicians) that seem to give a damn about these issues. We have a community police/safety office of trained professionals, who according to the City of Vernon’s website, houses information on more than 50 crime reduction/prevention programs and initiatives and also offers a broad spectrum of information around community-based programs, projects and initiatives. You can read all about them here: vernon.ca/homes-building/community-safety/community-safety-office.
We also have the Social Planning Council for the North Okanagan, which works to improve the quality of life for those marginalized in society.
Their projects have included the Partners in Action committee, which focuses on issues such as homelessness, affordable housing, food security, access to recreation and crime prevention. You can read all about them here at socialplanning.ca.
So back to my original point, there are people in our community that are out there doing good things that allow our citizens to partake in numerous activities that are safe and fun in the community.
So why don’t we focus on them more?
“There’s nothing to do here?” Bull. There are a ton of things that improve our lives here in the North Okanagan. I mentioned a few of them earlier, and only scraped the surface.
What it really comes down to is whether you are willing to make a commitment as a citizen to participate in or contribute to the good, or the bad.
It’s that simple.