My wife and I had the pleasure of attending the O’Keefe Ranch gala and fundraiser. The guest speaker that evening was Ken Mather, curator at the ranch for many years.
In other years, Mather has impressed us with his knowledge of the history of O’Keefe Ranch, which dates back to the earliest times of European settlement in the Interior, and its tremendous value to this community as an important part of our local heritage.
This year, he talked to us about the importance to the North Okanagan of O’Keefe Ranch, not just as a part of our history and heritage, but what its value is to local businesses.
He reported that in 2015, O’Keefe attracted more than 26,000 non-local visitors, who on average spent at least half a day at the ranch.
B.C. Tourism states that every out of town visitor spends, on average, $177 a day of outside money in our local economy. This amounts to $2.2 million of outside money coming to the North Okanagan each season.
Economists tell us that there is a multiplier (turnover) effect of 1.27 per cent, giving the local community an impact of closer to $2.8 million spent in local businesses, as a result of the attraction of O’Keefe Ranch.
If Vernon city council is not particularly interested in preserving our heritage, it has every reason to support it based on the growing cultural tourism dollars it brings to North Okanagan businesses.
So what do we do when our visitors come to the North Okanagan?
Take them to the beach, a trip to Silver Star or stop by Davison Orchards and Planet Bee? Time for a tea & tour at Mackie Lake House?
An important destination is O’Keefe Ranch, and the many facets it has to offer our visitors.
Not only Vernon residents, but generally all people of the North Okanagan support O’Keefe Ranch.
Should the City of Vernon continue to properly support the effective management of this valuable heritage site, surely all members of the Regional District of North Okanagan would support, on a per capita basis, the ongoing preservation and maintenance of this important cultural attraction.
I urge Vernon city council to seriously consider these matters.