The Save Skaha Park Society is continuing its advocacy for Penticton Parks, though with a new name and a broader mandate.
During the society’s annual general meeting Tuesday night, the members voted overwhelmingly to change the name of the group to Protect Penticton Parks Society, and expand its purview to all parks in the community.
The society has marked up a few victories since it was formed in Sept. 2015, helping pressure the City of Penticton renegotiate a 29-year lease that would have seen commercial water slides built in the park, a deal which was terminated completely in July.
The extent of the change in council thinking was summed up in a comment from Penticton city manager Peter Weeber, who asked to speak at the AGM.
“I can guarantee this council is not interested in doing anything in a park,” said Weeber, responding to a question from the floor. “We’re closed for park business. Unless the community agrees to put something in a park, we are not putting it in a park.”
Gerry Karr, one of the directors of the society, said that though those battles had been won, there was more work to do.
“The war is making sure, to the best of our abilities, that this never happens again,” said Karr. The next goal, he continued, was to deal with the parks bylaw that was passed in 2002 in a community referendum.
“It gave the promise that our parks would be protected, and until June of 2015, when the Trio agreement was put forward, we thought they were protected,” said Karr. “We now learn it was an illusion, they aren’t protected by that bylaw.”
The society’s advisory committee has already proposed replacing the parks dedication bylaw with one that would see the parks gain provincial protection through registration with the Land Titles Office as well as have clearer protection municipally.
Peter Weeber, Penticton’s Chief Administrative Officer, also spoke at the society’s annual general meeting. He agreed changes need to be made.
“They are absolutely right. We need a park dedication bylaw to lay out what is allowable and what is not allowable in parks. And there will be a park use policy that dictates what can go on in all parks,” said Weeber.
Society member Ben Amos questioned whether a parks dedication bylaw would include language that they should be unencumbered.
“We are not disposing of a park if we stick something in there that destroys the essence of a park,” said Amos.
Weeber said he and Anthony Haddad, director of development services, will work on the parks dedication bylaw with the involvement of the society and other involved parties. He said it wouldn’t necessarily be a complex bylaw.
“It will list a group of parks that we won’t do certain things in unless the community agrees,” said Weeber.
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News
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