If one were to create a Venn diagram of activities that have been shut down by COVID-19 restrictions in B.C., and the activities on offer at the Historic O’Keefe Ranch, it would come out looking more or less like a circle.
And now, the ranch with more than 150 years of history is applying for COVID-19 Safe Restart Grant funding through the Township of Spallumcheen, with support for their bid from the Interior Heritage Society.
Spallumcheen council approved $12,000 in Restart funds for the ranch.
B.C.’s Safe Restart Grant program has earmarked more than $13 million for local governments in the North Okanagan, including $1.6 million for Spallumcheen and $741,000 for the Regional District of North Okanagan. The funds can be used flexibly to address revenue shortfalls, reopen facilities, support operational costs and boost emergency responses to the pandemic.
The ranch had significant revenue losses over the past year due to services that couldn’t run given the risk of spreading the novel coronavirus.
“No special events could be held because of the restriction to 50 people, most weddings were cancelled due to the number restriction and travel restrictions significantly reduced our visitor attendance from outside the region and totally from outside the country,” reads a request for delegation to Spallumcheen council by Bruce Cummings, chairperson of the O’Keefe Ranch board of directors.
In order to stay financially viable, the ranch reduced its staff last summer to provide for only essential security, maintenance and bookkeeping. From October 2020 to February 2021, the ranch’s board members took on tasks that would normally be carried out by paid staff.
“During this time the grounds have been kept open on a donation basis for community members to have safe and interesting spaces to walk and get outside as an individual or family cluster,” Cummings’ letter states.
The funds would be used to cover reopening and operating costs, as well as emergency planning and response costs. The ranch recently received a report on what actions are needed to prevent flooding from Deep Creek, which runs through the ranch property, and an estimate of $40,500 has been determined to cover the necessary work, which doesn’t include plans to repair or replace its traffic and foot bridges.
The ranch’s board of directors has a few projects lined up for 2021, most of which rely on grant funding. A project to rebuild the old mansion porch has been funded by a Kal Rotary donation and a City of Vernon grant; a project to build rain gardens around some of the main buildings on the ranch has been funded by the Okanagan Basin Water Board; and washroom upgrades in the administration building have received funding from a BC Gaming Commission grant.
Potential 2021 projects that currently lack funding include rehabilitation and flood mitigation for Deep Creek, a pedestrian bridge replacement and water system and playground upgrades.