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UBC Reports | Vol. 52 | No. 3 | Mar. 2, 2006

Geographers, Planners Explore Future of Okanagan Cities

By Bud Mortenson

Are mid-sized cities up to the challenge of sustainability?

A team of geography professors from UBC Okanagan is examining sustainable urban development in mid-sized cities -- places like Kelowna and Vernon in B.C.’s Okanagan Valley -- on March 21 as part of UBC’s Living the Global City eight-month series of panel discussions and lectures.

The Living the Global City events are exploring the rapid urbanization of our globe in preparation for the coming United Nations’ World Urban Forum in Vancouver in June 2006.

For the Kelowna event, urban planners from some of B.C.’s fastest-growing communities will join scholars from UBC Okanagan, the University of Toronto, and the University of Waterloo to explore sustainable development strategies for mid-sized cities -- focusing on the rapid urban and population growth experiences of cities in the Okanagan Valley.

“We’re just at the point where we have to ask ‘where we are going?’” says Bernard Momer, associate professor of Geography at UBC Okanagan in Kelowna. “We have passed the psychological barrier of 100,000 people and that’s when everything seems to happen at once.”

Kelowna’s burgeoning population is now 109,500 -- up from 76,000 in 1991. Water, roads, affordable housing, public transit, and air quality are on the laundry list of social and servicing issues that have challenged the Central Okanagan through more than a decade of fast growth.

Donna Senese, an associate professor of Geography with an interest in sustained community planning, points out that the experiences of Okanagan cities are typical for mid-sized cities elsewhere.

“What’s different about the Okanagan is that it’s almost like the walls of the valley encapsulate it -- it’s a perfect microcosm of Western suburbanized cities,” says Senese.

Fellow UBC Okanagan geographer Carlos Teixeira agrees. “It is an excellent urban and social laboratory to study issues such as urban growth and sprawl, population growth and change, lack of affordable housing, traffic, pollution, water supply and demand, homelessness -- it has a lot of challenges,” he says.

For information about the March 21 panel discussion in Kelowna and other Living the Global City events, see www.wuf3.ubc.ca/program/living.html.

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Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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