Heated protest in Penticton over public park space

PENTICTON – Hundreds of Residents clogged Main Street in Penticton Monday night protesting a proposed marina expansion and waterslide park by Skaha Lake. Emotions were running high and that’s exactly what the city’s mayor says he and council don’t want to make a decision based on. Neetu Garcha explains.

 


Let’s don’t hate each other over… a waterslide

Herald editor James Miller

Herald editor James Miller

Ebony and ivory

Live together in perfect harmony

Side by side on my piano keyboard

Oh lord why don’t we?

—Paul McCartney, 1981

Forgive us for starting an editorial by referencing a cheesy pop song but Sir Paul’s simplistic, optimistic message from three decades ago could be used as a reminder for much of the community divide we witnessed at Monday night’s Yes/No Waterslide rallies.

Many oldtimers have never seen anything like it — certainly not here in Penticton. Crowd estimates range from 500 to 2,000, depending on who you asked, and there was a lot of passion for an issue which involves removing 25 per cent of Skaha Lake Park land for a commercial water park venture.

For an event that didn’t offer free food, it was an amazing turnout especially in the summertime when there’s so much else going on.

“Save our green space for generations to come!”

“Make Penticton an exciting and vibrant place for young people and families.”

We even heard choruses of This Land Is Your Land by Woody Guthrie. (Hey crowd, do you take requests? How about Big Yellow Taxi?)

Peaceful, community involvement. There were no arrests, no fights, no pepper spray. It’s a good thing.

Citizens having an opinion on what they believe is best for the city (and not the individual), again, a good thing.

It’s sad to see such a divide. Some people are resorting to personal attacks towards one another for no other reason than having an opposite opinion.

Most good debates have pros and cons.

Some are resorting to questioning the credibility of other citizens. Over what, a waterslide?

How bad has the divide become? Many have “unfriended” others on Facebook over the waterslide issue.

This is becoming serious.

We can learn a lesson from George H. Bush and Bill Clinton. The two former

political rivals are now quite good friends after the two lent their star power as

co-chairs of a humanitarian cause. They learned they share a lot in common — political beliefs being one of the exceptions.

The Rev. Jerry Falwell and magazine publisher Larry Flint didn’t mind one

another. They  had a silent respect for the other’s passion and ideas, even though they were totally opposite.

Cut to this week’s shark attack in Australia when a rival surfer risked his own life by jumping into the ocean in an effort to help save his fellow competitor. The two men’s embrace brought tears to everyone’s eyes around the globe.

It’s OK to be critical of a person’s ideas, but not the person.

—James Miller is managing editor of The Herald.


City hall rally fails to sway mayor and council

Andrew Jakubeit won’t be using his mayor’s privilege to put the Skaha Marina development project back on Penticton city council’s agenda for reconsideration.

Jakubeit’s decision comes after a rally that drew hundreds of people to city hall steps on July 20 to oppose, or show their support, for a deal leasing a portion of Skaha Lake park to Trio Marine Group, who plan to build a water slide complex and restaurant as well as expand the marina.

Council gave their approval to the project on June 29 at a special meeting, and Jakubeit said council remains committed to the deal.

“I did canvass council today, just to see if there was any interest in revisiting the Skaha water park initiative. Council was united in their support to move forward with the Trio Marine Group.”

Jakubeit admits his decision is unlikely to sit well with opponents of a deal, who were in the majority at the rally, though there were a significant number supporting Trio Marine’s development plans. The mayor said the majority of feedback he has gotten, through email, is in support.

“We have to make some tough decisions and no matter what decision we make, someone is going to be unhappy,” said Jakubeit. “It’s not just who shows up at the front door, who has the biggest signs or who screamed the loudest that gets council’s ear. We have to look at what the benefit is to the entire community.”

Jakubeit also noted that he hasn’t yet signed, on behalf of the city, the deal with Trio Marine.

“It hasn’t come back to the city, but it is in process,” he said.

Former mayor Jake Kimberly was a key speaker at the rally, informing the crowd not only of the mayor’s ability to return a decision to council for reconsideration, but also of a clause in the municipal charter requiring a referendum for disposition of public park land.

Disposition, in this case, means selling, Kimberly said it had to be considered whether that applied to the 30-year lease granted to Trio Marine.

“I personally believe it is, because the public will no longer have the absolute use of that land. The water park development will take that away for the next 30 years,” said Kimberly. “Access that visitors and residents have had for over 30 years will be gone.

“A $30,000 referendum would let the people decide and we would not have a divided community.”

Others, like Hilma LaBelle, said the Skaha Park deal was a part of a bigger picture. She was distributing signs protesting any move to develop city-owned lands near Munson Mountain.

“It’s been a movement towards disrespecting any kind of green spaces. I think we really need to stand up against that,” said LaBelle. “There is an agenda to turn our parks into income for the city and that is not what they are there for. They are there for the public.”

Garry Hooleaff came to the rally to show his support for the Trio Marine deal.

“I feel that it would be good to enhance that side of Skaha, and it is going to do a lot of good for Penticton,” said Hooleaff. “Everyone has their voice. There is a lot of things the city does that I am not for, but they have to do their job.”

Leanne Lamoureux was part of a group distributing blue balloons to people supporting the project. She said her friends were concerned about the misinformation being spread about the development project.

“We just want people to go on the development site and actually read through everything. Read through it all and then have an opinion,” said Lamoureux.

After rallying outside for 45 minutes, many of the crowd took seats in council chambers and an overflow room. As council took their own seats, protestors treated them to a rousing rendition of Woody Guthrie’s This Land is Your Land.

The mood darkened when Jakubeit informed the crowd the project would not be discussed. That was met with cries of protest from the audience followed by Jakubeit banging his gavel telling the audience to “listen up.”

“We saw what happened out there. If this meeting continues to be disrupted, then we can’t have our meeting and will adjourn,” said Jakubeit. “This council is not going to make a decision based on emotion. Let’s take a day, take a breather, and decide what we are going to do.”

The audience began shouting demands to know when council would discuss the issue, prompting Jakubeit to recess the meeting. Protesters stayed, with the faction opposing the leasing of park land milling about council chambers until RCMP Cpl. Don Wrigglesworth entered and asked them to clear the gallery.

As council reconvened at 6:30 p.m., Wrigglesworth stayed on scene, informing remaining protesters that if anyone disturbed the peace, he would escort them from city hall.

Jakubeit said it was disappointing that the gallery got unruly.

“We certainly took notice of citizens wanting to engage. I think we were a little disheartened that passion from some took a turn for the worse and it impacted our formal procedures,” said Jakubeit. “I think last night democracy took a back seat.”

Though he is firm in his decision not to put the Skaha Park deal up for reconsideration, Jakubeit said a better job could have been done getting information out to the public.

“We also have a community that has a propensity to oppose change. Some people just can’t picture what it is going to look like,” said Jakubeit. “A bit longer community engagement, I think that would have helped. Communication is always the biggest issue.”


Council to ‘revisit’ issue of Skaha Park water slides following huge rallies at Penticton City Hall

55adb44b8bf4e.imageHundreds of people jammed the street outside Penticton City Hall on Monday at twin rallies for and against water slides in Skaha Lake Park, an issue the mayor said council will now “revisit” later this week.

Besides a few shouting matches in the crowd and the groups occasionally trying to sing or chant over one another, the rallies were peaceful.

Penticton RCMP spokesman Cpl. Don Wrigglesworth, who watched from the sidelines with another uniformed officer, estimated the crowd at upwards of 600 people.

Just a handful of them actually addressed the rallies, including former Penticton mayor Jake Kimberley, who spoke on behalf of the No side, which is calling on city council to hold a binding referendum to let residents decide if Trio Marine Group should be allowed to go ahead with its water park.

“I’m not opposed to development – I think my record will show that. But I am opposed to what has taken eight councils over the years to create, and that is Skaha Park,” said Kimberley, who went on to explain the legislative process required to scuttle the deal with Trio.

 “You’re not the mayor anymore,” one woman shouted.

“I’m not the mayor anymore, thank you very much, but I do know the legislation,” Kimberley replied. “I worked for 12 years with the legislation I’m going to refer to.”

He estimated it would cost $30,000 to hold a referendum that “would let the people decide (so) we would not have a divided community over this issue.”

Nobody from the Yes side spoke, although the group, which turned out to support council and its decision to cut a deal with Trio, appeared equal in number and volume to the No supporters.

“I want to see Penticton thriving again. I’m 24 years old and I want to be able to start a family here. All of my friends have left for Alberta. They’ve all left the Broke-anagan because there’s nothing here,” said Cory Nelmes, who was among those carrying signs and balloons in support of the water slides.

“This entire community is going to disappear if every time there’s a change – it doesn’t matter whether the change is positive or negative – people are going to push against it,” she said. “It’s just wrong.”

On the No side, Gwen Sander said she was sticking up for the public good.

“I want to save our park. I don’t believe there should be a commercial development on public land. It’s a beautiful park and it’s for everybody right now and it’s free,” she said.

“And I think if we put a water slide there, it will take away from that.”

Despite calls to address the crowd, Mayor Andrew Jakubeit and his council mates stayed on the periphery and spoke to some demonstrators and the media.

“It was a big turnout. We didn’t know what was going to happen, that’s why we came out to see what was happening,” said Jakubeit, who promised council would discuss public sentiment before deciding whether or not to reopen debate on the water slides.

“There’s a lot of emotions flying high right now, that’s fair to say, and, again, we’ll take some time to absorb what’s happening and figure out how we want to proceed,” he said.

Jakubeit wouldn’t commit to a timeframe or a referendum, but said council would “let the dust settle for a day or two and then revisit this.”

Both rallies got underway at 5 p.m. and broke up about 45 minutes later, when some of the demonstrators moved inside City Hall, where council was due to meet at 6 p.m.

Protesters sang This Land Is Your Land as the politicians walked in to council chambers and then began heckling the mayor after he told them there would be no discussion of Skaha Lake Park because the matter wasn’t on the agenda.

When the crowd refused to quiet down, Jakubeit called a recess. Cpl. Wrigglesworth arrived later and asked the group to let council get on with its business, and the meeting resumed at 25 minutes later after most of the demonstrators left.

Trio Marine Group, which didn’t have a visible presence at the rallies, expects to have the water slides in operation by 2017. That will require relocating the existing children’s splash park at the company’s expense and result in the loss of some green space.

In the meantime,  Trio also plans to upgrade the Skaha Lake Marina with new boat slips, a restaurant and other amenities.

Its deal with the city guarantees taxpayers a cut of its revenue, which council has committed to using to fund the purchase of park land elsewhere.


Protesters force Penticton city council into recess

Penticton City Council came close to having its shortest meeting ever on July 20.

A huge rally that drew hundreds of protesters to the steps of City Hall prior to the regular council meeting Monday evening. Opponents of a deal that would see a portion of Skaha Lake Park leased to private interests were in the majority, but there were a significant number supporting the plan to build a water slide complex next to the marina at the east side of the park.

Protesters shout down council after being informed that the Skaha Lake park lease would not be considered at all during the July 20 regular council meeting.
Steve Kidd/Penticton Western News

After rallying outside for 45 minutes, many of the crowd took seats in council chambers and an overflow room. As council took their own seats, they were treated them to a rousing rendition of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.”

But the mood darkened when Mayor Andrew Jakubeit informed the crowd that the Skaha Lake project was not on the agenda and would not be discussed.

As the audience raised their voices in protest and question, Jakubeit tried to override them, threatening to adjourn the meeting, which drove the audience to higher levels of shouting.

Jakubeit recessed the meeting, but protesters stayed, with the faction opposing the leasing of park land milling about council chambers until RCMP Cpl. Don Wrigglesworth entered and asked them to clear the gallery.

As council reconvened, Wrigglesworth stayed on scene, informing protesters that if anyone disturbed the peace, he would escort them from city hall. Council reconvened at 6:30 p.m., making some adjustments to their agenda and cancelling a planned public hearing on another matter.

“It was disappointing that the gallery got unruly,” said Jakubeit after the meeting. He refused to say, however, whether council would reconsider their June 29 decision to enter into the long-term lease with Trio Marine Group.

“I don’t want to make any comment on, or a decision on a motion that is fueled by what took place tonight,” he said.

RCMP Cpl. Don Wrigglesworth chats with protesters in Penticton city council chambers, encouraging them to leave quietly.

 


Proposed water slides making a splash

PENTICTON — Penticton council gave the go-ahead for developers to expand a marina and build a new water slide park last month, but there’s still choppy waters ahead. An hour before Monday’s council meeting, a large crowd is expected to gather outside of Penticton City Hall.

Clifford Martin is one of the residents voicing their opposition against the project.

He doesn’t want green space to be turned into private enterprise, so he would like to see the issue to go a vote.

“A referendum gives a fair vote for both parties. If they vote for a water slide, then so be it. If they vote the other way, then so be it. At least that’ll be fair,” says Martin.

Mayor Andrew Jakubeit says referendums are expensive, costing taxpayers at least $30,000 each time.

He says the plan is moving ahead and points out it isn’t the first time the city has leased public space to a business. Loco Landing is one example of a business on a public park.

Jakubeit says more tourism is needed on the south end of the city and believes developer Trio Marine Group will help rejuvenate it.

“They’re putting a $4 million investment into improving the park experience, something the City of Penticton cannot do alone,” says Jakubeit.

There was strong opposition against the proposal in June’s public hearing.

But supporters such as Tracy Dodd say many of them have been voicing their support through emails.

For Monday’s rally, however, they will be holding up rally signs of their own so council members will know they have support.

“There’s so many more people who are mobilized now because they see how much the against people are speaking out and they want to show their support,” says Dodd. “I think the water slides can bring nothing but good to the city: bring more people, bring more business and it’d be so much fun for the kids.”

Even though the Skaha Lake marina and water slides park aren’t on council’s agenda, people in support and against the proposal will be making a strong presence at City Hall.

 


Duelling rallies planned for Monday at City Hall

Duelling rallies are planned for Monday at 5 p.m. in front of City Hall as groups on both sides of the Skaha Lake Park water slides debate battle to make their voices heard.

“We’re not protesting anything. We’re just going there to show council there are people who support their opinion,” said Tracy Dodd, one of the organizers on Yes side.

At issue is the city’s agreement with Trio Marine Group to allow the company to build water slides in Skaha Lake Park, where a kids’ splash pad will need to be removed at the developers’ expense and some green space will be lost. Revenue from the city’s deal with trio would, however, be earmarked specifically for the purchase of new park space elsewhere.

The water slides, expected be in operation by 2017, are just one piece of Trio’s plans to overhaul the east end of Skaha Beach with an expanded marina, restaurant and other amenities.

Dodd said she doesn’t share the No side’s concerns about the appearance of the water slides or the loss of park land.

“I’ve gone to that green space quite a bit because of that splash pad. If that splash pad wasn’t there, there wouldn’t be anyone on that green space,” she explained.

Dodd said she decided along with a few others to organize the rally after a visit to the splash pad last weekend,   during which she claims a woman on the No side approached kids and parents to tell them the attraction would be bulldozed to make room the water slides, but left out the part about it being relocated.

“There are a very outspoken few who are, quite honestly, using misinformation,” she said.

Facing off against the Yes side, which Dodd hopes will number about 100 people, will be a group led by Cliff Martin, who’s expecting upwards of 1,000 protesters.

“I was thinking 500, but it sounds like it’s going to be bigger,” said Martin.

Council “has really pissed off the senior population. It seems anybody under 40, all they see is water slides and they don’t see the value of parks.”

His team will also be collecting names on a petition calling on city council to hold a binding referendum on the issue.

Martin, who organized a similar rally in 2010 to ensure parallel parking was maintained along Lakeshore Drive prior to construction of the new walkway there, said the petition had 300 signatures from locals on it as of Sunday, and an equal amount of tourists had signed a separate such document.

He expects to present both petitions to council at a meeting in August.

Penticton Mayor Andrew Jakubeit told the Herald on Friday that he and the rest of council will be watching the rallies to get a sense of the public’s  mood on the issue, and didn’t rule out revisiting the deal with Trio.

“Right now, we’re still moving forward, but if there’s significant concern demonstrated in the community, then of course we’ll have to re-evaluate what we want to do and have a discussion about what we want to do next and how we want to deal with it,” he said.’


Leave the green space alone, great spot for slides is PIB, tie in with Coyote Cruises

Herald editor James Miller

Herald editor James Miller

Although extremely well-intentioned, a waterslide park belongs somewhere other than land presently occupied by Skaha Lake Park.

The park is a jewel of Penticton — if not the entire Okanagan — with a beautiful beach, multiple sports and adequate parking.

Placing a major commercial venture there, other than the marina, is far too risky. Too many things could go wrong.

As realtor and former city councillor Gary Denton correctly stated, imagine the outcry of citizens in Vancouver had their councils caved in to the many developers who, for decades, have tried to break into Stanley Park.

Nobody opposed to the proposal hates the idea of waterslides returning to Penticton. They simply love Skaha Park and don’t want 25 per cent of the space going to a large, noisy, three-month-a-year operation. Many of the seniors who are being unfairly labelled as “crotchety old people fearful of change” are grandparents.

To state there’s little for children and teens to do in Penticton is trite.

Tourists by the tens of thousands come from Alberta, the Lower Mainland and Washington come to Penticton to enjoy our beaches.

From the many festivals (most which are free) to school activities to clubs, there are many things for young people to do in Penticton compared to other cities of similar size. Our geography and climate allows for year-round recreation.

Thanks to the efforts of Rotarians as well as locals and businesses who donated both time and money, the splash park is a great attraction.

According to former three-term mayor Jake Kimberley, many previous councils bought up land so that people from all walks of life could enjoy the park for generations to come.

From a business standpoint, something that hasn’t been stated yet is whether Skaha Lake Park actually raises the price of real estate in the southern part of town. Potential home buyers love that they’re within walking distance of such a great park.

Credit the present council for trying something new. Their heart is in the right place but the location is not.

We’d suggest the Penticton Indian Reserve. The band is seeking major tenants now that the Green Ave. bridge is near completion. With Coyote Cruises

already a major water attraction, placing a waterpark near the new bridge, perhaps relocating the unload area for tubers right beside a waterslide, would be awesome.

If not, there’s dozens of other vacant lots available. We’re certain those property owners would be willing to negotiate.

James Miller is managing editor of The Herald.


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


Penticton residents rally to reverse waterslide plan

Cliff Martin stands with his daughter, Serena, in front of the splash pad which is slated to be replaced to accomodate a private waterslide at Skaha Lake Park. Martin is planning a rally and hoping a referendum will decide the fate of the park.

Cliff Martin stands with his daughter, Serena, in front of the splash pad which is slated to be replaced to accomodate a private waterslide at Skaha Lake Park. Martin is planning a rally and hoping a referendum will decide the fate of the park.

The city’s deal with Trio Marine Group to have water slides built on public parkland isn’t sitting well with everybody.

“It took a lot of work to acquire all this park space. It’s a slap in the face to just go lease it out,” said resident Cliff Martin, who’s inviting residents that share his concern to attend a rally outside of city hall before the next regular meeting on July 20.

“We’ll see what happens on Monday (July 20),” Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said. “And I just encourage the community to try and get themselves informed and not just go on the rumour mill; the coffee table talk, because it gets distorted.”

Jakubeit said frequently asked questions pertaining to the project are being addressed by the city through penticton.ca.

“The development is a park enhancement,” Jakubeit said. “It’s not like we’re putting a commercial dry cleaner or an apartment building. It is to complement the park and create it as a destination.”

Resident Hannah Hyland said she is not necessarily against the waterslides, just Trio’s plan to build them on public park space for the benefit of a few and not the general populace. She is encouraging people to show up wearing green to the rally on Monday and to sign a petition with over 600 signatures at goo.gl/oFpYR5.

The City of Penticton and Trio Marine Group both argue the project will bring about reciprocal benefits.

“We want to express that our project is about providing the people of Penticton and the guests of the city with an avenue to have fun and enjoy themselves,” reads a Trio press release. “The existing green space will be integrated into the design of the waterpark and preserved wherever possible. Furthermore, a portion of all profits brought in by the waterpark will go into funding green space in other areas of Penticton.”

Trio is also addressing concerns and common questions through their website www.skahalakemarina.com.

Regardless of the finer details, the resident at the head of Monday’s rally, Martin, wants to see the city hold a referendum before giving Trio the go-ahead.

“This is some of the most expensive real estate in Penticton and they just want to give it up so easy without public approval,” Martin said.

He added he’s expecting a strong turnout to the rally at city hall.

“We’re going to collect signatures to call for a binding referendum that the council cease and desist on all projects on public parks. They’re not their parks to develop without our permission. So we’ll see if this is a respectful mayor and council or not.”

Jakubeit didn’t completely rule out the possibility of holding a referendum, but said it would cost around $30,000.

“They’re very expensive, so that’s why you have a council to make some of these difficult decisions … if a referendum was held for every decision, development would come to a standstill.”

Roger Hulstein, Trio’s marketing co-ordinator, said he thinks most people in Penticton are in favour of the project, but he doesn’t think a referendum would be a good choice by council because of its high cost to the taxpayer.

Jakubeit said it could send a negative gesture towards other potential investors.

“If a developer wants to move forward and the minute there’s unrest in the community we automatically stop and change, that sends a signal to developers.”

He compared the project to LocoLanding, which he said is also a park enhancement for the city. Backlash is common in Penticton amid major changes, Jakubeit said, though the results often appease the critics. He said despite the negative feedback, he’s received a lot of positive support throughout the community.

To ensure compliance to the plan and adequate financing, the agreement with the city requires Trio to develop the site incrementally. Before Trio can begin construction on the water park, they agreed upon conditions to meet. One is the construction of a new splash pad which has to be built and operational before the existing pad is decommissioned – one detail which city staff and Trio have both said was misconceived.

“The Trio group is wanting to be a good corporate citizen in trying to look at (Skaha Lake Park’s) footprint in how they can redesign and create more of a park atmosphere,” Jakubeit said. “How that’s going to unfold I’m not sure.”