First Rock Climbing Festival at Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park – Okanagan

Climbers at Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park in Penticton, BC raised funds for their Park Watch program during a two-day festival filled with games, climbing and fun.

It was Skaha’s first ever climbers festival and it turned out to be a popular affair.

“It was an overwhelming response. We’ve probably had over 1,700 people over the last two days here in Penticton,” said Skaha Climbers Festival organizer Rolf Rybak.

The park monitoring program keeps the area safe and secure.

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In the past, cliff climbers had a number of problems with vehicle theft and break-ins. The program, which Rybak says has been a huge success, employs people with disabilities who can monitor the park for suspicious activity and report it immediately if necessary.

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“We started the park watch program with Penticton Area Co-operative Enterprises and hired people with barriers. And since then we’ve had a burglary in this park and the great benefit is that we’ve integrated people with barriers into our community and provided them with thousands of hours of employment,” Rybak said.

“When we had burglaries, we lost over 40% of tourist visits.”

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This festival is also expected to boost tourism in the Okanagan-Similkameen region, as it invites climbers from around the world.

“There are people here from Quebec, from Ontario, from Oregon, from Washington State. It attracts climbers from all over the world. It’s an impact, for all of us in the region, it’s not just Penticton. We all benefit from this type of activity,” said Ron Obirek, RDOS Director for Electoral Area “D.”

Going forward, the festival is planned to be held twice a year at Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park.

Virginia F. Goins