By Jim Cooperman, Observer contributor
Nestled beneath the foothills of the Monashee Mountains in the southeast corner of the Shuswap is the close-knit, rural community of Cherryville, a hub for adventure tourism. With a population of just 1,010 residents and only two stores, the community relies upon its strength of cooperation and sharing, given its isolation and distance from major population centres.
As the number of jobs in rural areas provided by the forest industry continues to shrink, employment in tourism is helping to fill the gap. All winter long, hundreds of backcountry skiers take off from Cherryville to enjoy the bountiful fresh powder snow on nearby mountains and fabulous accommodations at alpine lodges. During the summer, nearby Echo Lake, Sugar Lake and Monashee Park attract campers, boaters, fishermen, hunters, hikers and backpackers who appreciate the wonders of Rainbow Falls, Sugar Lake campsites and the trails to Spectrum Lake, Peters Lake and Mount Fosthall.
At the heart of Cherryville is the spacious, well-designed and well maintained, community centre where residents gather for celebrations, holidays, special events, dances, classes, meetings and family meals, including the very popular monthly senior’s dinner. In the basement is a day care centre, and across the parking lot is a new building constructed with volunteer help that houses the community food bank.
Since Cherryville is unincorporated, the community club fulfills some of the roles that a local government often handles, including planning events and managing the local park. For example, they coordinated the Cherry Creek stabilization project to protect the eroding banks, which took many years to obtain the permits and just a week to do the machine work.
Across the road from the hall is the 20-acre Hanson Park, situated on both sides of Cherry Creek where there is a popular swimming hole, band shell, covered picnic area and gymkhana course. There is also an outdoor rink complete with a new concrete base and a Zamboni in a shed built by volunteers with donated materials. Students from the nearby Cherryville Elementary appreciate the trails in the forest, that they also help maintain.
The first weekend in June is Cherryville Days that begins with a parade to the school, followed by a full day of fun at Hanson Park, including contests, games, helicopter rides, musical acts, a pet show and food vendors. The day ends with a dance at the community hall. No doubt, one of the favourite events is the outhouse race!
Local organizations are a key part of the Cherryville scene. The Cherry Ridge Management Committee began as a group dedicated to the protection of the hillside above the community. As part of its early effort to resist clearcutting the area, the group obtained salvage permits to selectively log dead trees. Volunteers did the logging, and the substantial proceeds have been used to fund community projects. The Committee now manages a community forest and profits continue to benefit local residents.
When a proposed development at Sugar Lake planned to utilize the lake for a sewage effluent outfall, local citizens formed the Cherryville Water Stewards to oppose the project. The provincial government responded positively to the opposition and provided a parcel of crown land for a dispersal field. Currently, the Stewards focus on education and promoting responsible recreation and water use. Signs have been posted around the community that urge residents and visitors to protect riparian areas, keep pollutants including oil and gas out of the water, and minimize boat speed close to shorelines.
The community is well connected to its heritage, thanks to the dedication and work of the Cherryville and Area Historical Society and the support of local residents and businesses. Three local history books have been published and a log museum was built at the Goldpanner campground. The group also now manages the trail built on the location of the water flume that once serviced pioneer farms at Richlands, the agricultural bench land above Cherryville.
With high-speed Internet now available, Cherryville is becoming increasingly popular for young families, who appreciate the lifestyle and the friendly community. The beauty of the area also sparks creativity, as there are many talented artists and artisans in Cherryville. Agriculture is also becoming more viable, as evidenced by the young healthy vineyard next to Highway 6 and the new Triple Island Cheese Dairy.