By Richard McGuire
Special to the Chronicle
The Osoyoos Desert Centre will be opening late this year as its society deals with repairs to one of the trailer buildings that had roof leaks.
The centre north of Osoyoos normally opens at the end of April, but Lee McFadyen, president of the Osoyoos Desert Society’s board of directors, said it’s now scheduled to open around May 17.
“The trailer was already in very poor condition and we were hoping to get by with it for another year, but the winter snow and rain really put it in a condition where we couldn’t have opened with it the way it was,” McFadyen said.
Volunteers were removing the damaged ceiling and McFadyen said the trailer will need a new ceiling, new flooring and some paint to make it presentable.
“It is a one-season fix,” she said.
The damaged trailer is the one at the entrance where admissions are paid. There are two other old trailers on the site that house exhibits, but there was no damage to the exhibits she said.
Originally the society considered replacing only the damaged trailer and keeping the two others, but McFadyen said they realized the other two won’t last long, so the society wants to replace all three trailers with one new one after the centre closes this fall.
“We made the decision that it would be more prudent to replace the existing three trailers,” she said.
In 2014, the society released a conceptual drawing for a new permanent structure, saying at the time that it could cost around $2 million. But the high price tag puts that project many years off and a new structure can’t wait.
McFadyen said the cost to purchase a new trailer will be around $50,000 and it will cost roughly the same amount again to put it into place, fit it, reinstall the solar panels and get it operational.
The Osoyoos Desert Centre sits on 67 acres of leased provincial Crown land next to the landfill site. It is noted for its antelope brush and sagebrush habitat, which has largely disappeared from the valley bottom as it’s been developed for agriculture and housing.
A boardwalk takes visitors 1.5 km through this sensitive environment where they can observe flora and fauna unique to this region. There are interpretive exhibits and guides conduct tours along the boardwalk.
A provincial government intentions paper released in 2015 proposed that the Desert Centre could be included in a new South Okanagan national park reserve. Although that park is now moving forward with support from the federal and provincial governments and local First Nations, boundaries have not yet been announced and it’s unclear how the Desert Centre will be affected.
The damaged trailer was probably already 20 years old when the society acquired it in the 1990s, McFadyen said.
“It’s served us very well and we’re lucky to have had it, but it’s long past its best before date,” she said.