Swift action is being demanded as Oyama businesses continue to be hurt by new traffic patterns.
James Baker, Lake Country mayor, is upset the Ministry of Transportation has refused to install signs directing motorists on the new Highway 97 to Oyama or, at least, Oyama Road.
“We thought the process was all in place and we would get Oyama exit signs,” he said.
The conflict arises around ministry policy that says individual areas within municipalities will not be recognized on highway signs. In this case, Oyama is part of the District of Lake Country.
However, Baker points out that Oyama has been featured alongside Lake Country on highway signs for many years.
“Oyama is an entity. They can put a sign up showing the Oyama exit,” he said, adding that his council will lobby the provincial government over the issue.
“We will take it to what ever level we need to so we can get this done.”
Since the new highway opened Aug. 16, many Oyama businesses have seen revenue drop because motorists aren’t sure of how to access Oyama Road or the old highway, now known as Pelmewash Parkway.
“It’s a brand new name and it doesn’t mean Oyama to anyone yet,” said Alan Gatzke, owner of Gatzke Orchards.
“The day after the highway opening, business dropped like a rock. During the first few days, typical sales dropped $4,000 a day. I can’t remember a time before when the parking lot was empty.”
To try and improve motorist awareness, Gatzke placed a homemade sign at Crystal Waters Road Sunday.
“Business has come up a bit,” he said.
Cory Holland, owner of the Oyama General Store, also agrees that signage needs to be improved.
“When you are in Vancouver or Calgary, they refer to different areas by name on signs,” he said.
But while concerned about the current situation, Holland says he is optimistic that the new highway will ultimately benefit the community.
“When I came through into the clearing and saw Oyama, my wife and I were high-fiving each other. Commuters can see more of Oyama,” he said of the high-elevation views.
A Ministry of Transportation official is expected to meet with Gatzke Sept. 4 and Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick has also been made aware of the local concerns.