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Back road to Okanagan jail may cut through provincial park

Osoyoos Indian Band Chief Clarence Louie with Premier Christy Clark during last February
Osoyoos Indian Band Chief Clarence Louie with Premier Christy Clark during last February's announcement that the government had selected the Senkulmen Business Park to host the new Okanagan Regional Correctional Centre. The government now plans to build a new jail access road through a nearby provincial park.
— image credit: Western News file photo

Creating additional access to the new jail near Oliver will likely involve cutting a road through Inkaneep Provincial Park.

B.C. Parks is considering an application from another government agency to remove 0.28 hectares from the park in order to provide a secondary access to the jail, which is slated for construction at the Senkulmen Business Park just north of Oliver.

“The intention is to portray that as a back-door exit,” said Stacy McGhee, a senior manager for Shared Service B.C., which is shepherding the application through the regulatory process.

McGhee explained the plan last week during a presentation to the board of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, from which he was seeking an endorsement.

The new road would intersect Tuc-El-Nuit Drive directly across from Campsite Road, and would cut through the narrowest point of the eastern portion of the two-piece park. A 0.85-hectare chunk of Crown land at the northern edge of that portion would then be added, resulting in a net gain of park space.

The RDOS advisory planning commission for the area looked at the application in December and agreed to support it as long as no signage is erected that would tend to steer motorists to the new route. The commission was concerned its presence would increase traffic on Tuc-El-Nuit Drive and discourage use of the upgraded business park entrance on Highway 97.

“The other issue is, if at all possible, to conserve highly valuable conservation and environmentally sensitive areas, you don’t divide them with roads,” said Allan Patton, the RDOS director for the area.

“Sure it’s squeezed and small, but there’s going to be a road there with ditches and all this kind of stuff. It totally takes away the integrity of that property.”

McGhee noted that three alternate routes were explored, but the proposed option is the cheapest and the shortest, at about 500 metres in length, so it will have the least impact on the environmentally sensitive area around the jail.

West Bench RDOS Director Michael Brydon reminded his colleagues the area of concern is in fact adjacent to a business park.

“It’s an environmentally sensitive area there, but let’s face it, it’s right beside a wine factory and pretty soon, right beside a prison,” Brydon said. “This isn’t pristine.”

The board agreed to support the application; Directors Patton and Brad Hope were opposed.

McGhee said the plan still needs approval from the Transportation Ministry. Construction on the jail is expected to begin in 2014.

 

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