July 31, 2015 - 4:30 PM
PENTICTON - A Penticton rock climber who also happens to be a director of Climbers Access Society of B.C., is concerned about a growing number of thefts from vehicles at the Skaha Bluffs parking lot.
Rolf Rybak says two Alberta vehicles were broken into on July 28 at the popular rock climbing site, prying open the doors and the hood, even stealing the battery. He says there were also some break and enters last spring.
Rybak says a large number of out of province visitors to the bluffs camp or stay in motels when they come to Penticton. When they drive to the bluffs, they often have most of their gear with them.
“Everything gets stolen. The climbing community is pretty tightly knit, so word gets out pretty quickly,” he says, adding Penticton is becoming known as an undesirable place to visit because of the thefts.
Rybak, who is the vice president of the Climbers Access Society, says his group has done studies on the economic input of climber visits. The group estimates 50,000 people come to the Skaha Bluffs every year to climb with an economic spinoff of about $8 million a year. He says a lot of those visits happen during the shoulder tourist seasons.
“We’re really concerned about making sure Skaha Bluffs is a good environment and a good tourist environment. When we have repeated incidents like this, it just scares away tourists,” he says.
Rybak suggests a possible solution could be to set up a concession, possibly with a local charitable group, in the parking area in order to have "eyes on the ground.” He says he has forwarded concerns to parks authorities and plans to send a letter to the mayor next week.
He says he wants to work with the city, the RCMP and B.C Parks to come up with some ideas and solutions to the issue.
Penticton Mayor Andrew Jakubeit says he’s not sure what the city might be able to do, noting jurisdictional issues with B.C. Parks. He suggested installing a webcam to cover the parking lot or possibly having the RCMP sweep the lot during their patrols along Eastside Road.
“Like any place that’s off the beaten path, people should not leave anything of value inside their vehicles,” Penticton RCMP Cpl. Don Wrigglesworth says.
B.C. Parks had not responded to an email about the issue prior to publication.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015