BEYOND THE HEADLINES: A is for ……

Columnist Richard Rolke tackles the alphabet that is Greater Vernon

As soon as we begin learning to read as children, we are told that A is the first letter of the alphabet. But that’s not the case in Greater Vernon.

The Greater Vernon Governance Society had barely launched a petition drive to investigate the feasibility of amalgamation when I got a question about the current political dynamics.

Specifically, my inquisitor wanted to know, “Why isn’t there an Area A?”

It’s a valid question given that the society refers to Areas B and C, as well as Vernon and Coldstream.

There will be many of you who know the answer, but for those who are relatively new or try to avoid jurisdictional distinctions, I will attempt to provide a response.

Regional districts were created in B.C. in 1967 as a way of addressing common issues among neighbouring municipalities as well as providing a level of governance to unincorporated rural communities or electoral areas.

In the North Okanagan, letters were handed out to designate the electoral areas. A was assigned to Okanagan Landing, once the transportation hub of the entire valley.

As the decades went by, Area A not only had a seat at the regional district table, but it played a significant leadership role under the directorship of Alan Hill.

But the needs and aspirations of some Okanagan Landing residents began to change by the early 1990s and there was significant pressure for a governance model that reflected that shift.

In 1993, a majority of Landing residents voted to be annexed by the City of Vernon, and with a simple mark on the ballot, Area A disappeared forever.

The new era was clearly evident when shortly after the referendum, a Vernon official took Hill’s seat at the parks board. One voice was lost, but another voice was strengthened.

It would be easy to stop there, but nothing is ever as simple as it seems.

While the bulk of Area A folded into the city, there were pockets that didn’t participate in the referendum for a variety of reasons. They still required representation at the regional district but they were too sparsely populated to constitute an electoral area all on their own. Instead, they were added to Area B (BX-Swan Lake).

Among the orphans that found a new home were those parts of the Commonage not in Vernon, homes along the old highway above Kal Lake and the Cosens Bay cabin colony, south of Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park.

Based on what occurred in 1993, the letter B took on an expanded meaning in Greater Vernon.

Not to be forgotten, the other letter that plays an active role is C. Area C consists of East Vernon, most of the BX and Silver Star.

Depending on what ultimately happens with the push for a single governance model in Greater Vernon, the North Okanagan’s alphabet could shrink even further.

Instead of beginning with B, the truncated rural system could start with D (rural Lumby), followed by E (Cherryville) and F (rural Enderby). It’s not an unusual scenario to consider as the Regional District of Central Okanagan once had nine electoral areas but is now down to two because growing population and demand for urban services led to absorption into Kelowna or new municipalities being formed.

Speculating about the future is extremely difficult, but one fact is known for sure. There was an Area A.