It’s a historic parcel of Vernon land that once provided hay and pasture for the horses of the famous BX Express, a group that significantly impacted the development of B.C. by moving people and goods, and essential communication, throughout the province.
BX Ranch lands is a rare, large parcel of good farmland capable of producing vegetables, berries, and forage crops, located in Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) land which can’t be subdivided. The BX Swan Lake Community Association wants to retain the property for agriculture and educational purposes.
“This is a one-time opportunity to retain the historic BX Ranch lands,” said association spokesperson Leith Skinner.
The Regional District of North Okanagan purchased the 67.5-hectare parcel of the BX Ranch in early 2016 for $2.315 million, and the land was subdivided to create a nearly 15-hectare linear park which connected Mutrie Road and BX Ranch parks in the East Hill/BX area. These parks today are used extensively by dog walkers.
A resolution was passed to sell the remaining 55.5 hectares, and it’s this parcel the community association wants to keep.
“The goal is to retain the entire area and not sell to private interests,” said Skinner.
Strong support was found through petitions and public meetings in 2017, and a new petition has been created at surveymonkey.com which Skinner and the community association hope many people will sign.
New support for educational purposes for the parcel has come from a Lower Mainland post-secondary school.
Surrey’s Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Institute for Sustainable Food Systems sent a letter of support to RDNO Electoral Area C (BX-Silver Star) director Amanda Shatzko, saying it would back RDNO in the development and implementation of a regional agriculture and food system education facility and programming on the property.
“We work extensively with local and First Nations governments; collaboration is central to our mode of operation,” said Kent Mullinix, institute director. “Our scope extends throughout B.C. and includes staff in the Okanagan.”
Mullinix said his group would entertain the potential to partner with RDNO and develop and operate an organic agriculture education program as they’ve done with the Tsawwassen First Nation and City of Richmond.
“Any educational program would be developed and operated to meet the distinct needs and objectives of North Okanagan communities,” said Mullinix.
Skinner said opportunities specific to the BX Ranch lands would augment the existing wetlands, reintroduce indigenous plants, lease plots to young farmers, encourage local food production, improve soil and education youth, along with providing economic benefits to the North Okanagan.