After initially denying their bid to appear before city council, Penticton’s mayor had a change of heart and allowed three people opposed to construction of water slides in Skaha Lake Park to speak at Monday’s night’s meeting.
City councillors sat stone-faced as the Save Skaha Park members criticized their handling of a 29-year lease with Trio Marine Group to upgrade the Skaha Lake Marina and build a new restaurant and water park.
One of the presenters, Carolae Donoghue, was armed with two binders she said contained petitions with nearly 4,000 signatures from residents opposed to the water slides.
“We’re not against upgrading the marina, truly, and we’re not against having a restaurant. We just don’t want a water slide in the middle of the park, which will be utilized for three months of the year,” she said.
“Skaha Park is not for sale. We want to keep it the way it is.”
Gerry Karr, a retired doctor, said Penticton already has the highest rates of depression and anxiety within the Interior Health region, a situation that won’t be helped by converting public green space into a for-profit water park.
“When you chose to turn Skaha Lake Park into an amusement park, you got it all wrong from a health perspective. You overlooked the fact this park is a perfect model of a natural park. It doesn’t need enhancement,” said Karr.
“Do you not understand the significance of a natural park to the health of our community? And do you not understand that a humongous water slide structure would shatter the peaceful ambiance and defeat its purpose?”
Ex-Penticton mayor Jake Kimberley reeled off a list of questions to council related to its due diligence on the project, including whether the city had an outside accountant verify Trio’s revenue-sharing projections.
He concluded with a warning that council would come to regret its deal with Trio.
“This decision is going to haunt you for the rest of your terms. You will not be trusted by the electorate,” Kimberley said.
“That is the worst thing you can ever have in the next three years in your term of office.”
While he didn’t address most of the points made by the speakers, Mayor Andrew Jakubeit did afterwards acknowledge his opponents for the civility they’ve shown since a raucous group from a July rally spilled into council chambers and forced a halt to proceedings.
He also introduced a notice of motion to discuss at council’s Sept. 8 meeting a plan to create a new parks master plan select committee, but offered few other details.
Last weekend, Jakubeit said he denied the Save Skaha Park group’s bid to speak at the meeting because the lease with Trio had been signed. He apparently changed his mind after meeting privately with Kimberley and others on Monday afternoon.