Opponents of a plan to build waterslides in Skaha Lake Park say they’ve been vindicated by a public opinion poll commissioned by The Herald that found just 17 per cent support for the project.
“That right there explains why (the city) didn’t have a referendum. Nobody wants the waterslides,” said Lisa Martin, spokeswoman for the Save Skaha Park Society, which now boasts 5,100 members and has filed a lawsuit to block the development.
“The other thing people need to keep in mind is that this is just one battle in the war, and the war is to develop Skaha Lake Park. The city is hell-bent on commercializing Skaha Park,” she continued.
According to the survey conducted earlier this month by Oraclepoll Research, 79 per of residents oppose the city’s plan to lease a portion of the park to Trio Marine Group for a commercial waterslide development. The other four per cent are unsure on the issue.
Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said in a statement a recent poll conducted as part of the Parks and Recreation Master Plan process found people nearly split on the idea of commercial development in parks, “so we knew that the community was divided on the question.”
But, “In terms of the waterpark at Skaha Park, I thought the level of support would have been higher.”
Jakubeit declined to state directly whether he believes the city still has a mandate to go forward with the lease.
“I believe the situation has become complicated and we’ve been trying to work with the developer to have them consider revising the scope, size or concept of their plans.
“I think the community concern for Skaha Park is so polarizing and so monopolizing of focus that other important issues that have larger impact to or for the community are being overshadowed and not receiving constructive input, attention or consideration by the public.”
Trio Marine Group didn’t respond to a request for comment Monday.
The company had until Oct. 1 to meet several conditions, such as proof of financing, for a separate lease of the Skaha Marina.
Trio did meet the deadline, but its submission has not yet been made public. Jakubeit said council “is committed to bringing closure or clarity to the entire status of Skaha Park and Trio Marine Group by the end of October.”
The Herald’s poll found support for the waterslides development decreased with age. It was highest at 24 per cent among those ages 18 to 34, and lowest at 12 per cent among those 65 and older. Those 35 to 50 were 22 per cent in favour, and those 51 to 64 registered 15 per cent support.
Eighteen per cent of supporters were males, just one point above females.
In terms of income, those whose families earn between $50,000 and $75,000 annually registered the highest level of support at 22 per cent, while those in the range of $75,000 to $100,000 showed the least at 16 per cent.
People whose families pull in less than $50,000 registered 20 per cent support, while those with incomes over $100,000 were 19 per cent in favour.
It’s no surprise to find the strongest support from young people who are more likely to have children and have the cash to take advantage of such an attraction, said Oraclepoll Research founder Paul Seccaspina.
He noted, however, that commercial developments in parks, particularly those near water, are virtual non-starters these days.
“It’s 2016: People want parks,” said Seccaspina.
“People want their water protected, people don’t want commercial development around water. So when you’re talking about putting in this kind of development, these numbers don’t surprise me.”
Toronto-based Oraclepoll Research, which has done work for the big three federal political parties and government agencies, was commissioned and paid solely by The Herald.
The poll is based on responses received Oct. 5-7 from 300 randomly selected city residents who were contacted on land lines and cell phones. The results are considered accurate to within 5.6 per cent, 19 times out of 20.