Playing with Land

The British Columbia Agricultural Land Reserve Commission, created to protect agricultural land from development, has just approved the transformation of 10 acres of agricultural land on the Okanagan College Property in Vernon into sports fields, although originally the commission had expressed a wish that the college would develop an agricultural program on the land. Full details here on CHBC TV news. The 7.8 million dollar project will now go to the voters of Coldstream and Vernon, to see if they wish to spend their money on this project. Meanwhile, the Okanagan remains the Western world’s only major agricultural area without a college facility for training in agricultural practices or for agricultural research. It is not an area short of sports fields. I believe this is a missed opportunity. We could have developed alternate agriculture on this site, even a traditional first nations garden. Now, I should explain where I’m coming from. Take a look at this:

Six Mile Ranch, Kamloops Lake

This land is not dissimilar to the Kalamalka Lake land owned by Okanagan College. It is no longer in the Agricultural Land Reserve, because in 1997 and 1998 the citizens of Kamloops raised a big stink about how no commission from outside of the Kamloops area should have a say in their economic future. Their future, they argued, was in using this land to create wealth for a generation, out of a world class golf course and residential development. After a lot of political strings were pulled, local politicians and Eastern developers got their way.

Here’s what that development looks like fourteen years after that debate:

All the Roads are In …

But where are the people?

The Ranch has been sculpted into the Tobiano golf course and development, advertising 18,000 acres in which to live, rest, and play. Here’s a view looking from the eastern edge of the development, towards the golf course:

Live, Rest, and Play?

And work for two men.

Things haven’t worked out as planned. The thing is, the development came in just before the provincial government pulled the rug out from the middle class in most of the Province of British Columbia, by balancing its budget in 2001 and 2002 through the cancelation of all policies that placed governmental management services within the communities of British Columbia and withdrawing them to Vancouver in the far southwest. It’s attractiveness as a rich person’s playground has diminished. If the investors had actually been British Columbians, they would have known this and gone to the Dominican Republic instead. Here’s what has happened to the investor’s plans:

A 30% Loss over 14 years.

At this rate, in 30 more years, the lots ought to be worth about zilch.

This isn’t good business. Actually, it’s not business at all. The following, however, is good business:

A Good Harvest

Hay grown this year on a small plot of land on the eastern edge of Tobiano. The Tobiano development could have quadrupled this pile, easy. Or it could have grown enough potatoes to supply a good-sized city.

Agricultural cities that don’t have colleges with programs in agriculture and agricultural innovation screw things up like this.


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