Historic North Okanagan ranchland could be used for agricultural education

Electoral Areas B and C are buying a piece of ranchland from the Regional District of North Okanagan. Bob Fleming / RDNO

A piece of historic ranchland near Vernon, that for many years has been used as a hayfield, could soon be a destination for young agrarians and students learning about agriculture.

Local leaders are looking at the 137-acre BX Ranchlands site, east of Vernon, as a potential space for “hands-on agricultural learning” by Kwantlen Polytechnic University students studying sustainable food systems.

Having space for young agrarians to rent farmland at a reasonable cost and educational space for elementary or secondary school students are also being considered.

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Planning for an educational future for the BX Ranchlands is able to move ahead because of a decision by the regional district this week.

On Wednesday, the Regional District of North Okanagan board agreed to sell the 137-acre property to two of its member jurisdictions, instead of selling the property privately, so that the land is kept for public use.

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Exactly how much Electoral Areas B and C are paying the regional district for the property has not been disclosed. Electoral Area B director Bob Fleming has been lobbying for the land to remain as public space for years.

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“The BX Ranchlands are historically significant for our area. You can’t create more green space, but you can conserve that which is undeveloped, and for this exact reason, we have worked to retain this property in public hands for the benefit of our communities. It is a great big, beautiful open space right on the edge of the city,” Flemming said.

Fleming said there a long list of possibilities for the site and “by securing it we have opened up a chance to secure those possibilities.”

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The 137-acre BX Ranchland site is the last remnant of what was once the BX Ranch, which once spanned thousands of acres, Fleming said.

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The electoral area director said when the property was part of the BX Ranch, it supported raising horses for Vernon-based Barnard’s Express, which operated stagecoaches delivering mail and freight regionally.

The electoral areas may expand an existing nearby trail onto the property this year, but any major new educational use will likely not occur till 2022.

In the meantime, Fleming said the park service will ensure someone is still farming the land to keep it maintained.

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