A petition urging local residents to help save a Penticton “landmark” has quickly gained momentum on social media after the city announced Thursday it will remove the Christmas scroll lights along Riverside Drive and Skaha Lake Road.
Penticton resident and petition organizer Olga Magyar said that after a moment of disbelief and shock, she knew she had to act when she heard the city would be removing the lights.
“If we don’t save them, we will lose part of the local history and certainly some of the unique local charm that makes Penticton Penticton,” she said.
“It’s evident to me that people see it as part of their childhood memories, part of the cityscape that greets them when they come back home,” she said. “It’s more than just a string of lights. If we don’t preserve this landmark now for ourselves and for future generations, we will lose part of the local history forever.”
Len Robson, the city’s public works manager, said that while the lights may be going out in Penticton, it won’t be forever.
Robson said public archives reveal the scrolls have been a part of Penticton for 55 years or more and he understands they’re a landmark in the city.
“They’re starting to fall apart, unfortunately,” Robson said.
The lights were replaced approximately 10 years ago with LED lights, he said, but aren’t as “vibrant as they once were and (are) all shot.”
Concerns over safety and electrical connections that do not meet current codes are among reasons why the lights have to be taken down.
“The one down by Skaha Lake Road, what had happened was the light string — because they’re deteriorating so much — they fell down, got caught in traffic and tore half the light string right off,” Robson explained. “Luckily, it didn’t pull the whole arm down.”
Robson said he understands the community’s sentiment.
“We’re going to keep them,” he said.
Ultimately, council will decide whether the city will pay to repair the lights, which Robson, while not having crunched the numbers yet, said would be “expensive.” Or, if a group came forward to help with the cost, he added, that’s another consideration.
“They have to come down right now anyways. No matter what we did with them to refurbish them properly, they have to be inspected . . . so that if we did put them up, they’re good for another 50 years.”
In February, council approved spending $50,000 for new Christmas lights in Penticton’s downtown core.
The petition to save the scroll lights can be found on change.org by searching “Keep iconic scroll lights in Penticton.”