Benefits of natural parks

Dear Editor:

Throughout the conflict over commercialization of Skaha Lake Park in Penticton, very little has been said about the “why” question: Why  is such a large and diverse segment of our population so strongly opposed to waterslides in Skaha Park? Why the fuss?

The answer lies not in the waterslides, but in the purpose andimportance of the park itself and what our City stands to lose by commercializing it.

Proponents of the waterslides have described the park as “dull”, “boring” and “underused”, and the waterslides are presented as an “enhancement” or “improvement” to the park.

Sincere and well-motivated as they may be, these comments represent a gross misunderstanding of the purpose of our urban parks and of contemporary thinking among urban planners about the importance of natural green space to both the health and the economy of our Cities.

Research shows a measurable impact among users of urban green space on depression, anxiety, work performance, obesity, and functioning of children with ADHD.

Natural parks also convey measurable economic benefit by attracting new businesses, and the jobs they create, to locate in the City. Urban planners globally are telling us we need more, not less, natural urban green space.

Yet, a draft Penticton Parks and Recreation Master Plan in 2010concluded our city is between 64 and 75 acres short of nationalstandards for park land per 1,000 population.

Skaha Park is a model natural park, clearly the best in Penticton, with its idyllic mix of meandering pathways, natural life, small creek, soft recreation, kids’ play areas, pavilion, and family gathering space.

Why would we want toconvert this unique and irreplaceable asset into a commercial amusement park for payingcustomers when it serves usperfectly exactly as it is?

How many other urban centres would give their eye teeth to have a beautiful natural park like our own Skaha Park? There are many other sites to locate a waterslide. There is only one Skaha Park.

So, let’s be clear. This conflictisn’t really about a waterslide – it’s about protecting our parks asvalued and scarce public space.

Will Penticton sell its soul for the false and tenuous allure of more tourist dollars? Or will it wake up and realize that natural parks are in themselves precious naturalassets that contribute greatly to our health and economy?

Once this park is commercialized we’ll never get it back. Gone forever. Is this what we really want?

Dr. Gerry Karr