Bear sighting derails plans to firesmart Central Okanagan park

A photo of the bear in Woodhaven Nature Conservancy Regional Park in Kelowna. Leah Schurian

Efforts to firesmart a Central Okanagan park were going smoothly on Friday, until a bear waded into the scene.

For the second year in a row, the public and students from an area high school were pitching in to clean up forest debris at Woodhaven Nature Conservancy Regional Park in Kelowna.

“So we were in there for about a half an hour and we had to call it quits,” said James Chester with regional parks,” because there was a black bear in the park.”

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He added the bear “was acting a little bit irregularly, so to err on the side of caution, we are giving the bear some space and we’re closing the project down.”

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The project, which included 88 students from Okanagan Mission Secondary School, will resume in two to three weeks.

It was Day 2 of the clean-up, with the students having logged a total of 264 volunteer hours.

The project is a partnership between the Friends of Woodhaven Nature Conservancy Society, RDCO Regional Parks, and local schools.

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Chester noted this was the second year that potential fire fuels were removed from the park. Last year, school groups and the public helped remove four tons of material.

“This was our attempt to do it again,” said Chester.

He also said “over the last few years, there’s been a bit of deadfall in the park. And fires have been more prevalent throughout the region over the last five to 10 years. So it’s good practice to fire-smart the property.”

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Leah Schurian, president of Friends of Woodhaven, said local residents walk the park a lot, “we’ve been seeing so much dry fuel accumulating. We thought this would be a perfect opportunity for a grass-roots stewardship project for people to get involved and feel like they’re helping.”

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