People floating down the Okanagan River Channel on Sunday afternoon. The city is warning people to stay away from the area as lake levels continue to rise.                                Photo courtesy of Kim Lawton

People floating down the Okanagan River Channel on Sunday afternoon. The city is warning people to stay away from the area as lake levels continue to rise. Photo courtesy of Kim Lawton

High waters not dampening spirits

Floating on a tube down the Okanagan River Channel is not recommended, but other than that, Penticton is welcoming visitors to enjoy all the amenities the city has to offer.

“This time of the year, going down the channel wouldn’t be that nice, because the water is awfully chilly. That is more of a July event,” said Thom Tischik, executive director of Travel Penticton. He took a tour of the Okanagan Lake shore area Tuesday morning after the long weekend.

There is no doubt Okanagan Lake and river channel is running high, he said, but there were still lots of people enjoying the beach and engaging in activities like paddle boarding.

“There is still a significant amount of beach,” he said, adding that the city is working to clean up the debris from the beach.

Concern over rising water levels didn’t dampen spirits in Penticton over the May long weekend.

“The market was packed yesterday. There are people out walking and enjoying the sun,” said Diana Stirling, owner of the LocoLanding Amusement Park. Her business, along with others like Salty’s Restaurant, Patio Burger and The Peach concession, were all busy, as was the area around the SS Sicamous and the Okanagan Lake boardwalk with people out for a stroll to enjoy the warm weather.

She’s concerned that potential visitors might be worried flooding concerns have affected Penticton facilities and businesses.

“There is a tremendous amount of calls from people outside Penticton, asking if we are open because they think Penticton has been affected by the flooding, and we actually don’t have any,” said Stirling.

Peter Weeber, the city’s chief administrative officer, said Penticton has instituted a flood watch on areas of concern, like around the city’s iconic SS Sicamous, but there is no flooding yet.

Other low-lying areas of concern include a small area near Okanagan Lake Park, Rotary Park and the Lakeside Resort, but operations haven’t been affected.

“Penticton is open for business. All our beaches are open and all our amenities like LocoLanding and the SS Sicamous. They just had a wedding there (Saturday) afternoon and it is right in the highest water area,” said Weeber. “We have to prepare for this sort of thing and we have to keep the community up to date, but right now we are doing really well compared to places like Oliver and other places in the Okanagan.”

Stirling said there is no reason for visitors to be concerned.

“They (city officials) are really just managing and making us feel safe and looked after so we can be open,” said Stirling. “We are not affected by the water at all.”

Tischik said that with the rising water, you have to be aware, like not going close to fast moving creeks, but there are still lots of activities ongoing in Penticton.

“It doesn’t seem to matter whether it is fire or floods, the news gets out there that there is something wrong and people go way too far for caution on it,” said Tishick.

The city will continue to issue situation updates at www.penticton.ca.