Speak out now on future of parks

The Parks and Recreation Master Plan (PRMP) Steering Committee arose from a firestorm of protest in June 2015 that pitted Penticton City Council against its citizens when council tried to commercialize Skaha Park after a secret process and without assent of the electors.

Faced with a daunting task in a climate of anger and mistrust, the steering committee members did not take the time to explore their values or to understand the meaning and purpose of our parks. Most important, they did not analyze the root cause of the mess they are dealing with.

Instead, they jumped into the deep end by trying to tackle the issue of commercial uses. The resulting eight-page section on commercial uses in parks is tortuous and exceptionally complicated. It uses language that will always be subject to interpretation and therefore abuse. It does not solve the problem. They could make it twice as long and it still would not solve the problem.

Bylaw 2002-42 is the root cause of this mess and the PRMP must deal with it.

This bylaw was approved by 93 per cent of voters in a 2002 referendum. Clause 3 of this bylaw allows the City to lease all or part of our parkland. But clause 3 was not shown to electors when they voted.

The Community Charter provides the authority for municipal legislation. Sections 27 and 30 of the Charter specify that municipal governments must seek approval of the electors before they can dispose of parkland. Leasing is defined as a form of disposition. Licensing is not, and does not require approval of the electors.

But the City now argues that clause 3 of the Parks dedication bylaw gives them advance and blanket approval to lease (dispose) any of our parks without seeking approval of the electors. This was clearly not the intent of the electors, fired up as they were by the Protect Our Parks movement in opposition to a plan to sell off Okanagan Lake Park for commercial development.

Ironically, the Bylaw we thought would protect our parks actually endangers them. Herein hides the core issue.

As long as the Bylaw 2002-42 loophole is used by our City to evade requirements of the Community Charter, our parks will be at risk no matter how we twist ourselves in knots trying to create rules for commercial use.

The PRMP Steering Committee must reccomend Council amend the Parks Dedication Bylaw to remove the offensive language from Clause 3.

The people of Penticton need to speak out now.

The future of our parks depends on it. Please read the Executive Summary of the PRMP Draft 2 and let yourself be heard by attending the open house on Monday or responding on the City’s website.

Dr. Gerry Karr