We were fortunate to sit down and hear from Dan and Maryann Hefkey on the August long weekend to hear their story of how they came to build a home to live in at Lakestone, as well as their take on this very special community. We’re sure you will agree that it’s people like the Hefkeys that help make Lakestone what it is today and for the many years to come.
HOW DID YOU END UP AT LAKESTONE?
Hefkeys: Our kids were out west in Whistler, so we explored all options on-line from Osoyoos to Vernon. Osoyoos was interesting because it’s a warm climate and has lots of wineries, but as many businesses and activities tend to shut down in the winter, we started looking towards Penticton, Summerland, Peachland, and as far north as Vernon – we looked at absolutely everything. Initially we weren’t looking to build, but after considering all available options, building a home just made sense. We spent one month renting in West Kelowna to really get to know the area. We had a realtor, and on our first day here, he brought us to Lakestone Waterside (to Travertine). We were immediately impressed and started building our home in 2015 and officially moved into our home at Lakestone in 2016. We were one of the first here, and, because it’s a new community, we realized there wasn’t an established social network for people new to the area, so we created a Facebook group, and organized community potlucks at “the Hub” (The Lake Club) every 2nd week to introduce new neighbours – some who come from all across Canada – that want to mingle and get to know each other. Before the new neighbours move in, we welcome them to the Lakestone Facebook group, so they can get plugged in and learn everything about their community. It’s easy making friends at Lakestone. Everyone blends well, and there’s lots of opportunity to get involved. The Lake Club has become the hub of the community where all are welcome. Others have initiated Women’s Wine Wednesdays, and the ever so popular High Intensity Interval Training in the pool. Both are well attended. Some of our other activities include rowing or swimming across to Lake Okanagan Resort, with others who kayak or paddle along with us. The Lake Club is our true community hub. Neighbourhood kids put on an annual July long weekend talent show as part of the potluck now…singing, violin, ukulele, magic card tricks, dancing, ballet, and more. One grandfather even played guitar as his two granddaughters sang a song they co-wrote.
WHAT WERE YOUR DECIDING FACTORS IN MOVING TO LAKESTONE?
Hefkeys: We had to have a view, or we weren’t leaving our home in Ontario. Wherever we moved, it had to be better than what we were leaving, which was a lovely home on the golf course near a ski hill, with great neighbours in Ontario. You have to make a checklist and be clear on your wants and needs. We checked out many mountain and lake view properties, but nothing compared to the views at Lakestone. We were uncompromising on having a spectacular lake view. Aside from that, proximity to an airport was paramount, and next, we had to do a bike test, to see if we could go cycling here. We can literally leave our back door and bike for 60 kms and not be on a busy highway, fighting for road space. (Cyclists in Ontario often have to drive 1.5 hours outside Toronto just to find a safe place to ride). We ride down the road from our house toward Pebble Beach in Okanagan Centre, up Oceola Road, across Highway 97 and up Oyama Road, and around Oyama to Pelmewash Way, and along the rail trails as far north as Vernon, or throughout Kelowna. The rail trails are great and enjoyed by all kinds of outdoors enthusiasts including families, cyclists, hikers, joggers, dog-walking, dog park, boaters…people trekking from all over the Okanagan.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT LAKESTONE THAT APPEALED TO YOU MOST?
Hefkeys: We love how Macdonald Communities (MCL) integrated the recreational aspects like The Lake Club and The Centre Club from the beginning, including a gorgeous hiking trail between Waterside and the Benchlands, which is frequented by families, children and their pets. If you’re an avid pickle baller, you will love it here, and they even added tennis and basketball courts – the latter of which is also suitable for ball hockey. The amenities are incredible, and you don’t have to wait for them to be built like some other communities. They are here now. With the connection of Tyndall Rd to Camp Road, there’s a handy alternative to cycle, or walk the long widely-paved sidewalks, and we’re within walking distance of some of the best Okanagan wineries. There’s always something to do, whether it’s the arts and crafts events at the wineries, Creekside Theatre plays and musical performances, “Live in Lake Country” – a free weekly summer open-air music event for all of the community to enjoy, the Arts Tour in August, or the Art Walk in the Fall. As a former Strata council member and Director on the Amenities Association, Dan worked closely with the ownership team of MCL, and appreciated how much they were willing to listen to the wants and needs of the community.
WHAT EXCITES YOU ABOUT LAKESTONE’S FUTURE?
Hefkeys: We’re really looking forward to The Centre Club opening. Once the Benchlands community is at 85% occupancy, the existing Centre Club building will be to ready to open up with a large gym, yoga and Pilates studio, community room, pool and hot tubs, men’s and ladies’ changerooms, and a possible coffee/wine bar. It’s also great having a Community Relations Manager here also, as there’s lots of communication, and we know things are being looked after whenever they’re brought to the developer’s attention.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT LIVING AT LAKESTONE?
Hefkeys: There is so much to discover. No word of a lie, every morning we wake up, raise the blinds, look out on Lake Okanagan, and might even spot an osprey or an eagle and say “Oh my God…we live here!” We’ll look at each other and ask, “What are we going to do today?” Today, after this interview, we’re going for a four-hour hike, then we are going to do some paddle boarding, prepare supper, have a nice glass of wine on the deck and relax. We feel so blessed to live in such a wonderful community with such great people. We plan on staying here forever. We’re not leaving!
HOW DID YOU MEET?
Hefkeys: We just celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary in Lake Louise. We met just before doing volunteer work in Africa for two years. One year in we were engaged, then married. Adventure has always been the common denominator, and we definitely find that excitement living here at Lakestone.
WHAT HIDDEN GEMS HAVE YOU DISCOVERED WHILE LIVING HERE?
Hefkeys: Lake Country has so much to offer. We can walk or zip down the hill on our bikes for a great cup of coffee at the Salty Caramel or the Museum, or head over to The Coffee House on Bottom Woodlake Road. Even though we have gyms here, if we want classes, we can work out at any of the local gyms like Crave Fitness with its many classes, Bodyz in Motion, Invati Yoga, or 24-Hour Fitness. We’ve found other hidden gems too like the many hiking trails including Spion Kopj, and if you have an ebike you can easily ride, pretty effortlessly, all the way to Kelowna for coffee. If you want to explore north, we’ve found great places like Friesen’s in Lavington, the Vernon Farmer’s market, and love Pane Vino Pizzeria at Gatzke’s Fruit Stand in Oyama. Fresh fruit and vegetables are in abundant supply at various farm gates like the 3lbs of asparagus we bought for $7.50, and the peaches at Wendel’s. Grocery stores and other shops are about 5 minutes away. We looked at other neighbourhoods with nice views, but after talking to people in their communities, we weren’t excited about dealing with 30 or 40 minutes of traffic to get to a store.
AS OUTDOOR ADVENTURE SEEKERS, WHAT’S NEXT ON THE LIST?
Hefkeys: We’re going to Kilimanjaro in October with Mike and Lori Wright, another adventurous Lakestone Waterside couple, so we have been working our way through a trail book and have discovered other great trails like Ellison Park (toward Predator Ridge), Enderby Cliffs, Black Knight (east of Black Mountain), McCurdy Rim (near Shannon Lake/Rose Valley Rim). We’ve been doing a lot of biking and hiking to get ready, and appreciate all the advice provided by neighbours.
WHAT WOULD YOU RECOMMEND TO OTHERS CONSIDERING A MOVE?
Hefkeys: In making a decision to move, you have to be very settled in your mind on what you’re looking for. For us, #1 was the view – it had to be spectacular, and #2 was deciding whether we were comfortable building or not. Envision a check list, similar to planning our trip to Kilimanjaro. Ask yourself, what’s available here/there? Know what you want and need, and make sure it checks all your boxes. Be willing to spend some time in that community to see if you like it and talk to people who live there. That’s how we ended up here, and not in Osoyoos or Penticton. People tend to spend more time researching shoes and cars more than a home, and some even buy sight unseen. If you want the buzz of a city, Kelowna’s not that far away, but it’s more about quality of life at Lakestone, it’s the lifestyle, we wanted out of the city, and these days anything you want that you’d find in a mall, can be ordered on-line. We like winters and the sun, and really knew what we wanted as part of our lifestyle. We’d never even heard of Lake Country, let alone Kelowna, or the Okanagan, but it has everything we needed, including a great doctor and dentist, and some of the best medical infrastructure anywhere. If you want a senior’s community, it’s not that. There’s just the right cross section of people here, where everyone is valued and feels at home in the community. There’s mutual respect amongst all ages and the whole community feels cohesive.
WHAT ARE YOUR NEIGHBOURS LIKE?
Hefkeys: For some, this is an opportunity to leave the big city, and live the Okanagan dream, or be mortgage free. There’s no speculation tax in Lake Country, which is a big plus. The community appeals to younger families and retirees. Residents are as diverse as Lakestone itself; there’s so much variety. As one example, we have neighbours from Fort McMurray who have made this their primary residence.
People here love to contribute and look out for their neighbours. If you need anything, someone is bound to have exactly what you’re looking for or knows someone who does. It’s hard for us to walk down the street, without someone saying hello, or inviting us in for a glass of wine. Everyone is so interesting and contributes in their own way. Whether it’s giving someone a ride to the airport or even taking you out on their boat…you don’t have to own a boat and Kicking Back’s boat rental service is handy here in the community. There are so many people from different places, with diverse backgrounds, and incredible resources and lifetimes of experience. For example, someone who can maintain a pool, or teach someone’s child about science.
While Lakestone isn’t a gated community, it feels very safe, so you don’t worry about going for a walk in the neighbourhood. The roads are wider, and people drive responsibly.
Probably 30% of residents currently have Lakestone as their summer home, and 80% of residents are probably from somewhere besides the Okanagan Valley. Approximately 50% are retired. There’s a diverse mix of people at Lakestone and on any given day, you’ll find 20 couples doing something interesting. There’s lots to do if you want to be active. You can pick and choose, whether it’s wineries, golf, boating on the lake, sitting by the pool, or taking your dog for a hike; people love the proximity and access to the lake, trails, great roadways, and proximity to ski hills – half way between Silver Star or Big White – some of the best skiing you’ll find anywhere. Though there are some multi-generational households, it’s important to note that short term rentals, like AirBnB’s or suites are not supported here – and that’s a good thing. There’s less traffic here and Lakestone is a joy to come home to. This is the perfect place! We don’t regret the decision we made.
WHAT ARE THE FIVE BEST THINGS YOU’VE EVER DONE?
Hefkeys: The five best things we’ve ever done 1) meeting each other 2) retiring when and early as we did 3) career choices as an adult-ed teacher and after a career with the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) becoming the Commissioner of Community Safety; responsible for policing services, fire, and emergency management including animal welfare for the province…and ironically moved to OPP Opal Peak Place at Lakestone 4) having our children Kyle and Jordan, and 5) moving here to Lakestone.