Traffic misses Oyama

No sooner was the new stretch of Highway 97 open Aug. 16 and customers visiting businesses along the old highway and Oyama Road evaporated

A change in traffic patterns has been a dead-end for Oyama merchants.

No sooner was the new stretch of Highway 97 open Aug. 16 and customers visiting businesses along the old highway and Oyama Road evaporated.

“It (new highway) is almost like a freeway and it doesn’t go through town so people are driving right past,” said Owen Dickie, a Lake Country councillor, adding that there was confusion about how to access Oyama.

“I had one orchardist say that one person drove to Kelowna (looking for him) and then came back and wound up in Vernon.”

The District of Lake Country’s tourist information centre at Gatzke Orchards was receiving about 50 visitors a day before the highway opened. On Aug. 17, the day after the route was unveiled, there were none.

There have been questions as to why the Ministry of Transportation didn’t immediately post attraction and direction signs once the new highway opened.

“There seems to be reluctance to recognize the community of Oyama,” said Dickie.

“I don’t think there is any malice involved, there just seems to be an oversight.”

While Oyama is part of Lake Country, Dickie says there has to be a recognition of Oyama’s century-old identity.

“Oyama has been an entity for a long time and businesses have been associated with Oyama a lot longer than the municipality has been around,” he said.

According to the Ministry of Transportation, it understands the importance of highway signage for residents and businesses in Lake Country.

“Signage has been discussed with municipal stakeholders throughout the project as the sign locations and wording is part of the detailed design,” says a ministry statement.

“Some of the final sign adjustments needed to happen after the new alignment was activated, otherwise the signs would be confusing for travellers.”

The ministry says installation of service and attraction signs started during the middle of last week and should have been completed by Saturday.