By Richard McGuire
Special to the Chronicle
The Osoyoos Desert Centre is a big step closer to replacing its aging trailers with a new modular building, thanks to several recent major contributions.
At an event on Friday, Denise Eastlick, executive director of the Osoyoos Desert Society, said recent contributions by the Town of Osoyoos and the Osoyoos Credit Union (OCU) have brought the society nearly halfway to its fundraising goal of $120,000.
The society is launching a fundraising campaign, including a GoFundMe page, to try to raise the remainder.
The Town of Osoyoos contributed $40,000 from Resort Municipality Initiative funds and OCU contributed $13,840.
This is enough, said Eastlick, to let the society place its order for a 12-by-60-foot modular building that will house exhibits and the admission office.
The new building, to be installed in the fall, will replace three aging mobile buildings, one of which had to undergo extensive repairs in the spring due to flooding over the winter and rodent infestation.
Lee McFadyen, president of the Osoyoos Desert Society’s board, said the new building is needed if the society is to continue its work preserving and showing the rare antelope brush ecosystem.
“We had some grandiose plans for a beautiful $1.5 million building,” McFadyen said, acknowledging that it’s very difficult to raise the funds and the time isn’t right.
“In doing the repairs, we realized that we cannot continue with this building and we have to put something up,” she said. “So we had a real hard look at it and it was a difficult decision for the board to make.”
She said the existing buildings were a gift and were already old when the society got them.
“They’d been past their best-before date for quite some time, but they have served us well and allowed us to operate,” she said.
McFadyen noted that the Okanagan Valley has seen a steady decline in the antelope brush ecosystem on which many species depend.
This ecosystem essentially ends around Penticton, although there are small pockets elsewhere.
“It is being diminished in Washington State and further south where there was once quite a lot of it,” said McFadyen, adding that it is a red-listed ecosystem, meaning it is threatened with extirpation or extinction.
The Desert Centre’s primary function is to conserve a portion of this environment and through guided tours, signage and special events, to educate people about it, McFadyen said.
More than 30 people attended Friday’s event, including supporters of the Osoyoos Desert Centre, and dignitaries including MP Richard Cannings, MLA Linda Larson, Mayor Sue McKortoff, Councillor Jim King and Anna Relvas from OCU.