Penticton water park faces lawsuit from citizens’ group

A sketch of the proposed Skaha Lake Marina and water park. Trio Marine Group

A sketch of the proposed Skaha Lake Marina and water park. Trio Marine Group

The City of Penticton’s decision to build a water park on six acres of of a public park is being challenged with a lawsuit.

The Save Skaha Park citizens’ group filed a civil claim against the City and Trio Marine Group Inc., the private company that was to operate the water park as well as the existing marina at Skaha Park.

“We think we have a case that in some aspects the city did not act lawfully, and on the advice of our lawyer, we went ahead and filed the claim,” said Lisa Martin, spokeswoman for Save Skaha Park.

“It’s in the hands of the lawyers now. We just have to sit and wait and see what’s going to happen.”

In a news release Save Skaha Park alleges the agreement between the City and Trio was inked without adequate public consultation or a referendum. They say the water park would “destroy its serene and healing ambiance so valued by Penticton residents.”

Controversial project

Skaha Lake Park is a 21-acre park located at the south end of the city. Currently, it features a beach, sports facilities, and a marina.

But the addition of the water park has been fraught with controversy. Former Penticton mayor Jake Kimberley came out in opposition to it, and a petition started by Save Skaha Park has over 4,800 signatures from residents opposed to the project.

However, current mayor Andrew Jakubeit defended the project back in July during an Interview with Daybreak South and denied that consultation was insufficient.

“Penticton is sometimes a community that is slow to change and everyone gets very excited,” he said. “We go into these public meetings with open minds…but that doesn’t mean who shows up at the public meeting dictates what direction council should go.”

He said that the water park will be a major enhancement, and could lead to increased tourism.

As well, he argued the money brought in by the water park could be spent on other parks in the city.

Martin says that shouldn’t be the purpose of Skaha Park.

“This turns it into an amusement park, a for-profit amusement park, and it doesn’t fit into the whole idea of why we have parks in the first place” she said. “There are trees in that area that are memorial trees … there’s a stream that meanders through that area where there are ducks and turtles and fish and geese. And this changes the whole nature of the park.”

The City of Penticton and Trio Marine Group did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

Water park development in Penticton riles former mayor, residents

A former mayor and other residents will rally outside Penticton city hall on Monday to protest city council’s decision to turn public park land into a private water park.

Jake Kimberley, who was mayor of Penticton from 2005 to 2008, told Daybreak South host Chris Walkerthat a quarter of Skaha Lake Park will be leased to Trio Marine Group for a waterfront development. The Skaha Lake Marina will include a marina, restaurant and water park with five water slides.

Kimberley said residents in the Okanagan city are angry. A petition launched by a resident against the decision has already gained over 700 signatures.

“It’s taking away a fairly big chunk of a park that’s been acquired over the years,” he said. “People now recognize that 25 per cent of the park is being taken away, so they’re extremely upset and rightfully so.”

Residents’ concerns fall on deaf ears

Kimberley said that many are upset that there wasn’t a referendum on the issue, adding that a previous public hearing on the development did not take residents’ views into consideration. Councillors voted 5-2 to support the development.

“It seemed like [council] already predetermined their decision prior to the public hearing, he said.

“That was really quite upsetting to 98 per cent of the people that attended the public hearing, because there were three and a half hours of presentations by the general public and all their concerns and interests fell on deaf ears.”

Penticton Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said council was not closed-minded.

“Penticton is sometimes a community that is slow to change and everyone gets very excited,” he told Daybreak South.

“We go into these public meetings with open minds…but that doesn’t mean who shows up at the public meeting dictates what direction council should go.”

Penticton mayor Andrew Jakubeit says the project will enhance the region (City website)

Project could benefit Penticton

Jakubeit said council decided to approve the development because they wanted to inject what he calls some vibrancy into Skaha Lake.

“It’s different if we were going to put a dry cleaner or apartment building there, but we’re putting [in] a water park and enhancing that area and creating more of a destination for visitors and obviously for our residents.”

He added that the loss of a quarter of the park land is inaccurate because 10 per cent of the park is already being used for commercial development.

Jakubeit said he realizes change can be hard for many, but said that some previously contentious projects — such as the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre — have since become a success for the city.

“They are amenities that bring tremendous value and community benefit and we’re all proud of those things.”

He also said the development has financial gains for the city.

“We can use that money to enhance not just Skaha Park but other parks as well,” he said.

A splash pad that was donated to Skaha Lake Park will be relocated by Trio Marine Group and will remain accessible to the public for free.

To hear the full interview click on the audio labelled: Penticton water park