More names than votes

Dear Editor:

I am one of the many supporters of Save Skaha Park that Maureen Wood refers to in her letter to the editor (“Tired of all the naysayers,” Herald, Nov. 27). Some of her statements need to be rebutted.

She suggests that the thousands who have signed the petition to Save Skaha Park “feel this green space belongs to them and only them”. Au contraire, we feel Skaha Lake Park should continue to be free for all to use and enjoy, not just by those who are willing and able to pay an entry fee to get in.

The petition asks City Council to allow the decision on the lease to Trio Marine to be decided by the electors, that is, to call a referendum.

This petition was presented to Council on Aug. 17 but Council decided not to act on it. As a result, on Sept. 25, Save Skaha Park Society filed a Legal Claim challenging the City’s authority to lease this dedicated public parkland for commercial purposes.

Hundreds of Penticton residents have stepped forward to fund this legal challenge.

Ms. Wood attempts to diminish the value of the 5,135 residents that signed the petition, stating this number represents only 18 per cent of the population of Penticton. (At last count, an additional 3,175 non-residents also signed the petition.) This is a significant number of people and their importance shouldn’t be dismissed so casually.

The reality is that, even for the most important civic issues, only a minority of our citizens participate. To put this number into context, more Penticton residents have signed the petition than voted for our mayor or any of our city councilors in the 2014 municipal election.

The supporters of Save Skaha Park are not against waterslides. Rather, we are advocates for the importance of parkland, and particularly natural green space, to the health and economy of our city. To categorize the many thousands who adhere to this opinion as “naysayers” is offensive. Name calling is divisive and an insult to all those who have articulated their reasoned defence of Skaha Park.

This doesn’t have to be a case of one or the other. It is possible to have both — retain a natural Skaha Lake Park and build waterslides on suitable private land elsewhere in the city or surrounding area.

Ms. Wood ends her letter by identifying herself as Penticton “born and raised”. It would appear that I do have something in common with her. However this distinction does not make our opinions any more important than anyone else’s and we still only get one vote each.

Gary Denton