Old growth billboards are being callously destroyed in Westbank to make way for a new hospital.
The huge and stately billboards, situated in a beautiful location overlooking Okanagan Lake, are home to colourful pictures, ancient fonts, and some rare advertising sales-person species.
The removal of such long-standing billboards, to make way for something as frivolous as a hospital (according to protesters), has raised hackles in both the environmental and advertising communities.
"Look at the size of this hackle," said one protester. "It's standing straight up."
"While some of the advertising material such as slogans and seasonal sale announcements can be recycled (again), most of the advertising will simply be destroyed," said a spokesman for one group.
"This is a tragedy since everyone has come to love the visual splendor of 'Just across the Bridge!' and 'Next to Wendy's!' They call this progress," said the protester.
Efforts to forcibly trap and move the rare species of advertising sales staff have met with mixed results. Some of them have become so stressed they have been seen working for radio stations. Others simply wind up down and out, working for newspapers.
"It's sad that these experienced advertising experts, many of whom can tell you from memory the cost per thousand views of any billboard, are being displaced," said a spokesperson for one group or another. "Just think of how this will affect the wine-and-spirits ecosystem, and the breweries for that matter. The downstream effects of this situation are not yet fully understood and should be studied before they're lost forever."
Yet another spokesperson refused to answer my questions, preferring instead to work on the spokes of her bicycle. "I'm really just a spokes person," she said.
The police are also wading into the controversy.
"Drivers are being distracted by this development," said Sgt. Major "Corporal" Kernel. "Suddenly, you have this bright, clear view of the lake, which is blinding drivers who are used to the sheltering nature of the billboards," popped Kernel.
"It is definitely a hazard."
"We are also having to deal with all the advertising salespeople as they wander around offices downtown, abusing alcohol and shouting at citizens. Something about the 'power of outdoor' and other nonsense. We'll be humanely Tazing them soon, of course - for their own safety."
Only 7,000 of these rare billboards remain in this roadside habitat, leading environmentalists and advertising executives to form a rare partnership in order to fight the destruction.
"These old-growth billboards have been here since before trees," said a protestor wearing a tie-dyed three-piece suit, knitted cap and body odour.
"They should be left alone to quietly live their lives, distracting drivers as to the location of the next McDonald's or promoting the Holiday Inn's $99 per night special for residents seeking a dirty weekend getaway."
A Westbank First Nation spokesman said an exhaustive environmental review process was undertaken prior to removal of the billboards.
"All the plywood was gently removed by the excavator, and most of the eye-catching advertising material was gently recycled under the wheels of the dump trucks," said the spokesman.
"We are also hoping to hire many of the displaced advertising professionals
once we open the hospital. Because of their experience in advertising, we feel it will be an easy transition to handling bedpans."
David Crawford is a Kelowna resident and four-time winner of America's Funniest Humour Writing Contest.
He can be reached at