Slide location main concern

Dear editor:

Proponents of a waterslide in Skaha Park would like you to believe that the 5,000-plus Penticton residents who signed a petition to save Skaha Park are opposed to a waterslide. This is not true. But we are appalled at the chosen location.

So this debate is not about a waterslide – it’s all about saving Skaha Park from commercial development that will permanently degrade and devalue Penticton’s only true, natural park.

We’ve heard claims that Skaha Park is boring, underused and in need of improvements to make it more interesting and “vibrant.” Well, this gets at the heart of the issue: what purpose does Skaha Park play in our community and how well does it meet that role?

Skaha Park is a natural open space park. Increasingly, research has shown that natural parks play an important role in countering the stresses of urban life.

Richard Florida, arguably one of the world’s leading experts on what makes an outstanding city, advocates strongly for preserving and increasing these low key, open, walkable greenspaces: “What we’re finally beginning to figure out is that the ‘green city’ is vitally important….The good news is that some cities have come to understand that great parks can rally citizens and hold communities together…and the most far-seeing mayors realize that.”

Florida is not alone. Countless other urban researchers have emphasized the importance of passive urban greenspace to a city’s health and economy.

A 2010 Gallup survey of 28,000 Americans in 26 communities revealed that aesthetic appeal, inclusiveness, and opportunities to interact with other people ranked as the top three determinants of residents’ attachment to their communities.

The message: Natural parks are not amusement parks. They each have valuable but conflicting roles in urban life.

It is sad to see our civic leaders acting so regressively in the face of compelling contrary evidence. To repeat: Skaha Park is Penticton’s only true natural park. It has a lovely mix of low-key amenities and is a gorgeous place of rest, respite and social gathering.

It doesn’t need to be more interesting. It fulfills its role as a natural park perfectly.

Our city council may well be remembered as those who seized the opportunity to ruin something perfect by trying to make it better. I suggest the people of our fair city who are tempted to jump on the Skaha waterpark bandwagon ask themselves whether they really want to be associated with this kind of legacy.

There are many other sites that could accommodate a waterslide. There is only one Skaha Park.

Gerry Karr