Public reactions to Skaha no surprise

City hall seems a bit surprised at the reaction to their endorsement of Trio Marine’s plans to lease parkland from the city and build a waterslide park and other amenities.

Though there was a special council meeting to hear public input about the plan on June 29, where council listened to public concerns about the project for three hours before giving Trio Marine the go-ahead, public concern has continued to grow. It is unlikely to encourage city council to reverse its decision on the Skaha Marina plan, but a rally is planned for city hall steps before the regular council meeting on July 20.

Council shouldn’t be surprised at the reaction. While this project is a good example, it is not the first time council have mishandled communications with the public. Rumours of the Skaha Marina project have circulated through the community since last fall, including some far-fetched speculation, like a major hotel complex. But rather than engage the public, council remained silent, and encouraged Trio Marine to do the same; to not talk about their plans, even in a general way. Even then, it was clear that public park land might be part of the deal.

This was an ideal point to begin engaging with the public, and before the deal had gone too far, find out if the community was willing to give up park land for a privately-operated waterslide park — a worthwhile tourist attraction for a city with a tourism reputation based on peaches and beaches.

Or the city and Trio Marine could have engaged the public after the deal was more fully-formed. But instead, the public only found out the details at the beginning of June, with only a month for any public consultation — far too short a time for a major project. Compare that with the downtown revitalization project, where a year was spent consulting the public in a variety of venues.

You might argue that this is a private company, not a public venture, but the fact remains that the Skaha Marina project is based on removing public land from our park inventory.