Province takes steps to provide more campsites for temporary farmworkers | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Province takes steps to provide more campsites for temporary farmworkers

The provincial agricultural ministry is offering assistance to local governments to fund and locate additional temporary agricultural workers campgrounds similar to Loose Bay Campground near Oliver, shown above.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / RDOS

A search is on in the Okanagan for suitable locations for additional campsites to provide accommodation for seasonal farm labour.

The B.C. government announced today, June 25, it is providing funding to local government to set up campsite accommodations designed to ensure they meet health and safety requirements under COVID-19 requirements.

The provincial government has already provided the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen with $60,000 to help with costs to ensure health guidelines are being met at the existing Loose Bay Campground north of Oliver.

A representative from the Ministry of Agriculture made a presentation to the District of Summerland council earlier this week to outline possible accommodation options the ministry is working on with local governments for domestic seasonal workers, B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham said in an email yesterday.

The ministry has been actively working with regional districts, municipalities and other interested potential partners to identify, secure and support development of additional managed campsites as quickly as possible, but no timelines or deadlines have been identified.

The ministry has also provided  $112,000 in funding to the Creston Valley-Kootenay Lake Economic Action Partnership to help support two camping accommodation sites in that area to meet provincial health officer guidelines.

Popham said they have hired a consultant to liaise with industry and local government to identify additional sites that could be used for accommodation, but despite ongoing conversations with various local Okanagan governments, including Osoyoos, no further sites have been selected or prioritized yet.

At the regional district-controlled Loose Bay Campground there are currently around 120 campers compared to normal numbers this time of year of around 300, a report prepared for Summerland council stated. Indications are the campground will max out this year at 150 campers as it appears there are fewer domestic farm workers in the Okanagan this year due to COVID-19.

It was also noted in the report two possible campground locations were identified in the Osoyoos area but were turned down by Osoyoos council.

The province also announced today all seasonal fruit pickers will need to take a new online COVID-19 awareness course through AgSafe, available in French and English. Workers will need to show proof of completion of the course to employers and must stay in a designated campsite.

Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen board chair Karla Kozakevich said the Loose Bay Campground will use different criteria for assessing COVID-19 awareness, as the campground not only allows agricultural workers, but tourists as well.

She also said, given the fact it's nearly July, she's not sure there will be time to develop other campgrounds in the regional district this year but it was “good the province is researching it.”

“From my understanding there is a need for these sites in the longer term. There has been a need for them for years,” Kozakevich said.

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