West Kelowna and Westbank, commonly referred to as 'the Westside' by locals, is a tale of two communities, each quite new, but very unique. These communities are located on the west side of Okanagan Lake, opposite of the City of Kelowna. The area is a popular tourist destination and is home to well-known attractions such as Mission Hill Family Estate winery, Quails Gate Winery, the Gellatly Nut Farm and Mt. Boucherie. It is located along Highway 97 as is the first community reached when travelling east to the Okanagan via the Coquihalla Connector.
In Westbank one will find modern day shopping in a big box retail environment, along with residential neighbourhoods of all sizes. This community is governed by Westbank First Nation which in 2005, became the first self-governing First Nation community in Canada. Subtle cultural reminders can be seen throughout this bustling community of over 9,000 aboriginal and non-aboriginal residents. The Syilix language of the Okanagan Nation can be seen on many street signs, as well, visual art and symbols have been incorporated into signage throughout the area.
West Kelowna is the larger of the two communities and it is home to over 32,000 residents. The landscape of West Kelowna is a mix of residential neighbourhoods, rolling hills of orchards and vineyards, small store shopping and services, along with some light industry. Although West Kelowna has a rich history in agriculture and forestry, it is actually a very new community. In 2007 the area incorporated into a District Municipality and ever since then has been making a name for itself.
West Kelowna and Westbank have formed a seamless community to visitors that transcends borders. We know that when visitors are here they will be taken in by our stunning scenic vistas, the beautiful lake views as well as the warm and welcoming hospitality of the two communities.
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The Westside is comprised of two different communities and governments. West Kelowna incorporated into its own District Municipality in December 2007, after being part of the Central Okanagan Regional District. The other community and government is the Westbank First Nation which is proud to be on the leading edge of aboriginal people. On April 1, 2005, and after two decades of community consultation and negotiation, the WFN Self-Government Act came into effect.
Includes Westbank, Glenrosa, Shannon Lake, Smith Creek, Lakeview Heights, Sunnyside, West Kelowna Estates, Casa Loma and most of the Westside Industrial Park and North to Fintry and South Whiteman Creek.
West Kelowna is located at the junction of the Okanagan Connector and Highway 97. The Okanagan Connector and the Coquihalla Highway offers increased access to/from the Lower Mainland and Vancouver which has greatly enhanced tourism and industry. Transport of goods in both directions is quick and economical. Highway 97 provides the North/South link to the USA and the Trans Canada Highway.
While West Kelowna is served primarily by the Kelowna Airport some 30 kms to the north, it is also readily accessible to the Penticton airport which is approximately 55 kms south. Served by Air BC; Canadian Regional; West Jet; and Horizon Air, with daily direct flights to major cities across the country. Central Mountain Air, another regional carrier, offers flights to Kamloops, Williams Lake, and Prince George.
The Westside is presently served by the West Kelowna Fire/Rescue Department. The department has a Fire Chief, two Assistant Fire Chiefs, an Administrative Assistant, a Fire Prevention Officer and a Public Life/Fire Safety Educator. There are presently 28 full-time fire fighters providing 24/7 response from the main fire station in Westbank. They are supported by a paid-on-call complement of approximately 52 volunteer fire fighters working from four fire halls located in Glenrosa, Lakeview Heights, West Kelowna and Westbank. In addition to the full complement of fire vehicles and equipment, new 100-foot platform ladder truck services the community.
Water is provided by two main Irrigation Districts namely Westbank Irrigation and Lakeview Irrigation. As well, the Regional District of Central Okanagan operates and maintains two water systems serving more than 1,900 households. In January 2005, the Regional District took over operation of the Sunnyside and Green Bay water systems from a private company. It also operates the water system servicing the West Kelowna area. There are also several private water systems serving small pockets of residential development in the area and outlying properties have wells. There is adequate supply to water for future development and plans are in place to provide the infrastructure to increase capacity when necessary. Additionally, the Westbank First Nation Band has completed a water system which draws from Okanagan Lake and has the capability to provide water for development of their properties and more.
The Regional District of Central Okanagan operates a state of the are "Westbank Biological Process" wastewater treatment plant to service properties with sewer service within the Westside Electoral Area, the District of Peachland and the Westbank First Nation Reserves #9 & #10. A $9.2 million expansion of the treatment plant is nearing completion and depending on growth, is expected to add from three to seven years of capacity to the facility, providing service to approximately 14,000 connections.
Community sewer systems do not yet service all areas of the Westside, however, due to environmental concerns, the long term plan of the District Municipality is to expand service in phases to those neighbourhoods not yet served, particularly in the Glenrosa and Lakeview Heights areas. Sewer service in those areas has been expanded over the past four years to include approximately 1,400 properties.
The Westside is presently policed by the RCMP. This unit is Provincially funded and consists of 26 uniformed officers and 3 plain clothes investigators. Further support is provided by Kelowna Detachment Forensic Identification Services and Police Services. They work out of the Community Policing Office located next to M & M Meat Shop on Old Okanagan Highway. In addition to serving the Westside, the detachment must also cover a large area on the east side of Kelowna, up to and including Big White Resort and the Municipality of Peachland.
The Westside Citizen’s Patrol is a volunteer organization which is also involved with community policing.
There are two ambulances stationed in West Kelowna 24 hours per day with hospital services provided by the Kelowna Regional Hospital.
Long the mainstay of the local economy agriculture continues to be a dominant player in the production of various goods and provider of employment for residents. Many varieties of fruits from apples, pears, cherries, peaches and apricots are grown for export. Mission Hill Wines is the major vintner in the area, Quail’s Gate Estate Winery, and Mt. Boucherie Estate Winery, along with several cottage and farm gate wineries, are well known and specialize in unique wines of excellent quality.
Forestry continues to play a significant part in the local economy with Gorman Bros. Lumber employing over 225 people in its logging and milling operations. Additionally, there are numerous contractors who handle harvesting and trucking of logs to the mills.
There are four major manufacturers on the Westside that contribute significantly to the local economy. These are Air Liquide, Boxmaster, Northside Industries Inc. and West Manufacturing Ltd.
Year end (2006) numbers show that building permits were taken out for 386single family homes, 9 duplexes, 13 mobile homes and 9 multi-family dwellings (consisting of 157 units) in West Kelowna.
In total, 1035 building permits, valued at $133.6 million were issued for the West Kelowna area.
Overall in the Central Okanagan, 1,88 building permits were issued in 2005, worth $143.7 million.
Central Okanagan Regional District (CORD) statistics do not include the municipalities of Kelowna and Lake Country.
Building permits are issued for things as big as commercial and industrial buildings and as small as wood burning appliances and private swimming pools.
Building additions and alterations also require permits. All are included in the CORD numbers.
CORD also reported that 1040 permits, worth $99.98 million, were completed in 2006.
Sales Statistics* for January 1, 2006 to December 31, 2006:
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* Based on the combined sales within the Glenrosa, Westside, Westbank, Shannon Lake & Lakeview Heights market areas, as defined by MLS.
Perhaps the fastest growing sector of our economy is tourism, primarily due to the establishment of a “freeway” link to the lower mainland area of B.C. The Okanagan Connector and Coquihalla Highway have shortened the driving time to/from the Vancouver area to about 4 hours. Since the Okanagan offers year round recreation from skiing to golf and beaches, it is a natural alternative to the suppliers in the lower mainland because of prices, weather and natural beauty.
The West Kelowna area is a “four season” playground because of the year round facilities and attractions. People are drawn to the warm climate, good swimming and boating, beautiful scenery, and abundance of fresh fruit in season, and a wide range of tourist facilities. The hunting and fishing are also some of the best anywhere.
Crystal Mountain Ski Resort in Westbank offers a family style ski facility with a European flavour. For cross country skiers, Telemark offers an excellent setting.
The Westside offers some good beaches and sunbathing areas. Public boat launching and moorage are available. An extensive upgrading has been done to the Gellatly Bay area creating a linear lakefront recreation facility.
The Westside has numerous parks and attractions. Powers Creek & Bear Creek Provincial Park are some of the many excellent hiking trails available.
The Gellatly Bay Ferry Dock; The Fur Brigade Trail; The Westbank Yacht Club; The Westbank Museum & Arts and Craft Society; Gellatly Heritage Park; and the Gellatly Nut Farm.
West Kelowna has a great variety of lakefront resorts, family friendly hotels and Bed & Breakfast accommodations. West Kelowna has some of the finest lakefront camping and RV park facilities in the Province, along with condos and resorts that are second to none.
The West Kelowna Visitor Centre which, at present operates yearly out of the Westbank & District Chamber of Commerce, provides information services to about 7,000 visitors per month in the summer months.