Penticton community still divided

Prior to the Aug. 17 council meeting, Hannah Hyland and Doug Maxwell prepared to gther more signatures on petitions opposing the leasing of land in Skaha Lake Park and asking for a recall of Penticton City Council.

Prior to the Aug. 17 council meeting, Hannah Hyland and Doug Maxwell prepared to gther more signatures on petitions opposing the leasing of land in Skaha Lake Park and asking for a recall of Penticton City Council.

After hearing from petitioners opposed to leasing a portion of Skaha Lake Park, Penticton’s Mayor Jakubeit held out an olive branch.

Near the end of the Aug. 17 council meeting, Jakubeit introduced a notice of motion, that he plans to call for a new parks master plan at council’s next regular meeting on Sept. 8.

“While we are moving forward with the Skaha Marina waterslide project, now is the time to initiate a community dialogue about parks,” said Jakubeit. Based on that dialogue, he continued, a new parks master plan would be developed to outline community needs and desires, appropriate uses and potential parkland acquisition.

Jakubeit said the document would take over a year to develop, including putting together a parks master plan select committee and doing extensive community consultation. The result, he said, would provide more clarity for future council decisions.

The last parks master plan was developed in 1993, but was never adopted as part of the Official Community Plan. Jakubeit wouldn’t guarantee the same thing might not happen to this plan.

“There are a lot of variables. Through community consultation we will get to something that is palatable for the vast majority of the community and this council, I think, would be happy to endorse and that staff would create our policies around that,” he said.

Earlier in the meeting, council heard from a delegation opposed to leasing of a portion of Skaha Lake park to Trio Marine group, who are planning to develop the existing marina, and build a waterslide complex in what is presently greenspace.

The seven councillors listened without comment or question as the delegation castigated them for their handling of the proposal.

Dr. Gerry Carr, a health activist who helped found the Okanagan Similkameen Healthy Living Coalition, spoke about how parks and green spaces contributed to community health, pointing out that Penticton is well above provincial averages when it comes to diabetes, depression and anxiety. The remedy, he explained, is not drugs and doctors, but the promotion of a healthy lifestyle.

“Natural, green parkspace is a powerful tool for the promotion of mental health,” he said. “When you chose to turn Skaha Lake Park into an amusement park, you got it all wrong from a health perspective. This park is the perfect model of a natural park. It doesn’t need enhancement.”

Karr’s comments that the process followed by council in approving the project was an embarrassment to the city was echoed by former Mayor Jake Kimberley, who questioned the process in detail in his remarks.

“Parkland should be free to everyone who lives in this community and pays taxes,” said Kimberly. “This decision is going to haunt the rest of you for the rest of your term. I have never seen a division in this community like I have seen in these last few weeks.”

The third member of the delegation, Carolae Donoghue, presented council with petitions representing close to 4,000 signatures.

“Each day we gather more,” she said. “This public park will not be public. We will never see it again as it stands today.”

The delegation, however, was very nearly not on the agenda, and was only added at the last minute after the delegation with Jakubeit privately earlier in the day.

“Last week, their application was very vague, it was just ‘we want to talk about Skaha Park, democracy, process and park usage,’” said Jakubeit. He explained that since the agreement with Trio has been signed, there wasn’t reason to keep discussing Skaha Lake Park.

He had hoped the delegation would focus more on moving forward and what they wanted council to do in the future with greenspaces and parks.

“I thought 80 per cent of the conversation would be about moving forward and 20 per cent would be rehashing their points of view from before,” said Jakubeit.

Jason Cox, president of the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce, came forward during the question period at the end of the meeting to voice his support for council, that there was a segment of population in support of the project in Skaha Lake Park.