Waterfront funding is money well spent

The pathway and beach along Okanagan Lake between the Peach and the SS Sicamous is undeniably one of the jewels in Penticton’s tourism crown.

But dying trees, decaying retention walls and cracks in the walkway where tree roots had burrowed underneath meant the time has come — in fact is long past — for the city to give some attention to this valuable feature.

After public consultations, the committee tasked with developing a plan to rehabilitate the waterfront returned to show off their initial plans.

And that’s where the trouble started. First, there was the $7 million price tag should all the options be implemented. Then there was the ill-advised switch from angle parking to parallel, which became the focal point for a sizable and vociferous group of citizens concerned about the damage this would do to the beach’s reputation as a destination.

Council and the waterfront committee’s reaction to the controversy was, unfortunately, to take a conservative approach, and the next plans that were brought to the public were a choice between simply repairing the problems or a $1.8 million upgrade. And while it sounds like a lot, that doesn’t buy much over the basic repairs.

That price has already grown by $275,000, however, and even as they endorsed the final plan this week, council was talking about how to avoid letting it grow any more.

We applaud council’s tight fiscal management, but in this case it may be misdirected. We agree with Coun. John Vassilaki’s view that the waterfront should be treated as the tourism gem it is, that everything possible to enhance its value should be considered.

While borrowing large sums to enhance the waterfront is not a viable option right now, neither is cutting any of the planned enhancements in order to meet a budget figure. Council should be prepared to establish a reasonable contingency fund to complete the project as planned.



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