Wall perching and neck craning are becoming popular Peachland pastimes.
Rarely, but once in a while, I’ve found myself driving down Beach Avenue at dusk. Nearly every time, there are people perched on the Swim Bay wall and people standing or sitting in the front of the Primary School, craning their necks. They’re looking up, at the dormers on the roof of the school building, watching the bats.
It wasn’t that many years ago, during the seemingly never ending Primary School debate (demolish or save) that a biologist discovered the attic of the building had quite a lot of bats in it. Turned out that attic may hold one of the largest bat colonies in British Columbia.
Peachland council, after years of debate, sitting on hands and angry words, decided to save the school century-old school building. That the bats would be allowed to stay spawned all sorts of jokes. The chamber of commerce, which championed the bat saving effort (and came up with a plan to exploit their existence for tourism reasons) was laughed at by some.
Let’s face it. Most people think bats are creepy and not in the least bit deserving of fanfare.
Regardless the ridicule, the bats are still there, plans are for them to be center stage in a new visitor information centre in the Primary School, and people are learning about the Peachland bats.
On Saturday night, on a lark, my wife suggested we drive to the Primary School to see the bats. The Yuma myotis bats of Peachland leave their maternal roost in the attic at dusk, just as it is getting dark.
We drove to the school and, sure enough, there were people perched on the Swim Bay wall and others were standing or sitting in front of the school, necks craned. There were about 20 in all.
It occurred to me, while watching hundreds of bats exit the school building’s dormers, that bats as tourist attraction may not be a joke at all. With no fanfare, no tourist guide present, no neon signs proclaiming the nightly flight, here was 20 people watching the bats exit their roost and proving, in a small way, that our bats are an attraction after all.
Kids and adults both watched the bats. One man said his family was from Glenrosa. They came to Peachland specifically to see the bats.
Peachland is not mosquito free but the town certainly has far fewer of the pesky blood suckers than other communities because of the ravenous appetites of the Primary School bats.
Perhaps it is time to embrace the bats. Not as in ‘Have you hugged a Yuma myotis today?’ but as in acceptance of their existence and satisfaction that we actually did the right thing.