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.’