When the Okanagan Similkameen Parks Society was formed more than 50 years ago, part of its mandate was to work for the acquisition and preservation of parklands for the health, recreation, education and natural enjoyment of the public.
The society played a big role in the establishment of the Vaseux Lake Mountain Sheep Protected Area and achieving park status for what are now Cathedral, Okanagan Mountain and Conkle Lake Provincial Parks. These and other provincial parks are owned by British Columbians.
Despite significant public criticism over private interests’ attempts to infringe on park use, Bill 4 (Park Amendment Act) was passed in 2014. Apparently, our parklands, which are held in public trust for the “protection of natural environments for the inspiration, use and enjoyment of the public” are now more at risk.
Similarly, when publicly owned parkland, such as the land at Skaha Lake and the ball diamond next to the convention centre, is allowed to be used for commercial purposes despite considerable public opposition, how is the public being served by such a decision? If we agree that public land is a long-term, valued resource for the benefit of all, how is the decision considerate of future generations — our children and grandchildren?
The public can let their concerns be known through writing to councillors and the mayor, speaking to their neighbours or through other forms of protest. Watch for information regarding coordinated demonstrations at Penticton City Hall or elsewhere.
Our society recognizes the need to be protective of public parkland. A lease here, a road there, unenforced regulations or ‘fuzzy’ boundaries, etc. are red flags and warrant investigation, consideration and support or opposition. We applaud the vigilant local citizens and groups who take this responsibility seriously.
Ian Graham, President