The Canada Day fireworks show in Sicamous which usually takes place at the Beach Park with hundreds of boaters coming into the area to view the spectacle from the lake. -File photo

Flooding may mean changes to the Shuswap’s Canada Day festivities

Salmon Arm, Sicamous coming up with alternative plans if lakeside parks are underwater

High water levels at two prominent Shuswap parks have Canada Day celebration organizers feeling the heat.

Celebrations of Canada’s 150th birthday are planned in Salmon Arm at Canoe Beach and in Sicamous at the Beach Park, both of which are significantly covered with water at the moment.

It is not known when Shuswap Lake will peak, however, some predictions indicate as late as the last week of June, which could seriously hamper festivities at the two locations.

“It is a concern. Public safety has to be number one,” says Salmon Arm councillor Louise Wallace Richmond, who is the chair of the Canada 150 committee. “We are hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. The biggest thing is to have a back-up plan.”

Salmon Arm has not had an evening Canada celebration or fireworks in many years, however, due to the significance of the 150th celebrations, a new community picnic and fireworks show was planned for Canoe Beach.

The beach is closed to the public at this time due to high water.

The Salmon Arm July 1 Children’s Festival which runs in the morning and early afternoon will remain at the Salmon Arm Fairgrounds and should not be impacted by the high water situation.

While the Sicamous Beach Park has not been formally closed, more than half of the park is currently underwater. This is the site of many of Sicamous’ community celebration, including the longstanding and popular evening fireworks show, which draws a few thousand people to watch on land and hundreds of boats to the area to view the display.

“We are gonna make it work,” says Sicamous Mayor Terry Rysz, noting it is too soon to make the call to move the event to another venue. “We are planning for a real community extravaganza… We are not about to have this fail.”

Rysz says the community has invested more than $10,000 in additional funds to make the fireworks show even more spectacular than usual.

Rysz stressed the need to cater to the boating community as part of the celebrations.

“We want those visits to happen,” he says noting the district is considering a shift of celebrations to the new Twin Anchors marina site in Old Town Bay. He said Finlayson Park was considered, but it lacks the access for boats that a lakeside venue would provide.

Parking, he says, would be the biggest concern with the Old Town Bay site, so shuttle busses are also being considered.

For now, the district is waiting and hoping waters will recede in time.

As for Salmon Arm, Wallace Richmond says other venues are also being considered, including the baseball diamonds at Mosquito Park in Canoe. The virtual Cross-Canada theme, with stations representing each province and territory could easily be set up at another site. The fireworks, which are planned to be shot off a barge in the waters off Canoe Beach, would also be visible to the public from that location.

“Canoe would be disappointed if they could not host this event, so we are still looking at Canoe, but we are considering a bunch of options at this point,” says Wallace Richmond, who notes postponing the fireworks show, as Sicamous was forced to do in 2012 due to flooding, is also an alternative, but would be low of the list of preferred options.

“I’m working hard not to overthink this because there are so many things that could change between now and July 1st, but I will be deferring to the expertise of our staff as to whether we need to make changes. Our next step is to determine when exactly we will be making that call, because there will need to be some lead time, if we have to make a change of venue,” Wallace Richmond says.

“Right now we are moving ahead as though everything is going to take place as planned, but with a Plan B in our back pocket.”