Okanagan locals find creative ways around Highway 97 rockslide

Click to play video: 'Okanagan locals find creative ways around Highway 97 rockslide'
Okanagan locals find creative ways around Highway 97 rockslide
Local businesses and residents are getting creative in finding ways to get around the rockslide that's blocking Highway 97 just north of Summerland – Sep 8, 2023

What used to be a simple 20-minute commute to work has turned into quite an adventure for Okanagan Crush Pad Winery’s general manager, Craig Pingle.

As Highway 97 remains closed due to a rockslide, Pingle first tried taking the backroads but has since found some unique ways to get from Peachland to Summerland.

“I had to think quick and figure out how to get to work… we went from tourist season and lots of visitation to full swing harvest,” said Pingle.

“The first day I took the backroads and it took over two hours because it hadn’t had any work done on them yet. Then day two, I decided to park at Okanagan Provincial Park and take the hike up over the hill. I did it once, and definitely didn’t want to do it again. Took me about two hours to do the same thing.”

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Click to play video: 'Man walks from Kelowna to Penticton due to rock slide'
Man walks from Kelowna to Penticton due to rock slide

This week, however, Pingle has found a few more unique ways to make his daily commute, including by water and by air.

“We’ve sort of been playing with it and figuring out how to get there,” said Pingle.

“I’ve gotten home a couple of times by boat from some of our friends in the Summerland area and then paragliding. That’s more as a fun sort of activity than a realistic way to be getting to work.”

Local businesses are also getting creative with their services to help residents and visitors get around the rockslide.

On Thursday, the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association released a list of businesses that are adapting to avoid travel disruption and to provide options for travellers.

  • WestJet is offering flexible changes and cancellations for those with trips at Kelowna International Airport (YLW) for travel between Sept. 7 through 10.
  • Air Canada is waiving fees for those travellers with existing bookings impacted by the landslide to change their arrival destination to Penticton or Kelowna.
  • Hoodoo Adventures offers a daily shuttle service between Penticton to Kelowna via the Myra Canyon Trestles for those who need to return to their destination.
  • Luxury Lake Tours is offering a weekday Rock Slide Shuttle Service between Peachland and Summerland with one-way and return options.
Click to play video: 'Work continues on rockslide near Summerland'
Work continues on rockslide near Summerland

“It’s been going well, it’s been steady. We’ve got a group of schoolteachers that we’re helping to get across, and they are giving us, you know, enough that we can cover costs, and we’re able to help,” said Luxury Lake Tours owner Calvin Barr.

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“The response has been fantastic. The passengers are very appreciative, and we’ve been getting a lot of reward just being able to do that, seeing a smile on people’s faces — we did some weddings. We helped with weddings, one where we moved 40 people. We had two boats and two trips.”

According to Barr, the company says they had a rocky end to their season and the water taxi is not only a way to help the community but their business as well.

“Well after the government shut us all down until Sept. 4, business had dried up, and then when this happened, I saw an opportunity to help the public,” said Barr.

“We already had a boat slip here in Peachland, and we had the ability to move people across the slide to Summerland. We thought it was a good opportunity to help people out and make up for the loss of business.”

Click to play video: 'Caution urged on unpaved detours to avoid Highway 97 closure'
Caution urged on unpaved detours to avoid Highway 97 closure

Meanwhile, for Pingle, he is still deciding on what his next commute to work will look like.

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“I tried to convince the owners to buy a boat, I think we do need a boat. Last year we bought an Airstream for the beautiful Garnet Valley Ranch property but they weren’t going for it but I think that would have been my favourite way to do it,” said Pingle.

“I also thought sea-dooing would be nice to do it right now but come the winter would be a different story.”

On Wednesday, the Ministry of Transportation said if all goes well, the highway could be reopened to single-lane, alternating traffic on the weekend of Sept. 16.

Click to play video: 'Additional detour routes available for Highway 97'
Additional detour routes available for Highway 97

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