Sickle Point as seen from the air. (Kaleden Community Association - David Mai)

Sickle Point as seen from the air. (Kaleden Community Association - David Mai)

Efforts to save Sickle Point down to the wire

The riparian wetland is in the middle of a court-ordered sale

If there is one thing that the community of Kaleden seems to be able to rally behind, its preserving Sickle Point.

The riparian wetland, named for its distinctive sickle-like shape, is located on the edge of the KVR Trail and Skaha Lake.

The Kaleden Community Association, Penticton Indian Band, and elected officials from the Regional District of the Okanagan Similkameen and the federal riding have all shared their voices on the court-mandated sale of the property and the proposed development of the land.

“If it’s gone, it’s not coming back,” said Richard Cannings, the MP for the South Okanagan – West Kootenay Riding. “It’s redlisted, that water birch – rose thicket, because something like 80 per cent of it that has been lost in the last 100 years. This is one of the remnants and we have a chance to protect that.”

Cannings has also been speaking with his provincial counterparts to discuss the issue, while the government was being established and ministers selected.

Sickle Point is listed on the B.C. government’s Conservation Data Centre shows the extent of riparian area according Terrestrial Mapping. (B.C. Government.)

Residents of the unincorporated village have been doing their best to preserve the wildland for over a decade, efforts that were spurred into higher activity following a proposal 18 months ago to develop the property into a five-lot subdivision. Following a petition and letters to the officials involved, that development proposal was scrapped.

“The community has never supported any development there,” said Subrina Monteith, the RDOS Area I director. “That has been clear for as long as I have lived here.”

Now the property has been foreclosed and forced into a court-mandated sale, with a $2.1 million offer put in place from a private developer.

On Nov. 26, the Penticton Indian Band issued a release echoing their previous statements on the land, and their views on any changes to it.

“Our position at PIB, as members of the syilx nation, is that we are the original title holders to this area and we are absolutely against any type of development,” said PIB council member Suzanne Johnson in the release.

“We will vehemently defend our Title and Rights and reject any proposed developments at this site — that’s an important message for any developer wanting to purchase this land to understand.”

Residents have so far pledged over $250,000 towards the purchase and preservation of the land through the Save Sickle Point page on the Kaleden Community Association website.

Randy Cranston, the chair of the association, says that he hopes to raise more funds towards the purchase of the property in order to reduce how much the RDOS would be required to borrow. He also noted that the association is in talks with environmental conservancy groups in the hopes of acquiring a sponsor for the purchase and preservation of the land.

“Our goal is to raise a million to a million and a half through fundraising,” said Cranston. “We have also submitted a grant application to the South Okanagan Conservation Fund for $450,000. The goal is to cobble money together from multiple sources.”

Before the RDOS is able to put forward an offer on the property, they would be required to go before the residents of Kaleden to get their approval, much like the residents of Naramata did for Naramata Beach in October.

There are a number of differences between the Sickle Point and Naramata Beach efforts, including the time frame, with the property set to go to court for the sale in early December.

That short time frame has led to the latest effort from the Save Sickle Point committee, which is putting together a letter sent directly to Premier John Horgan calling on him to put a stay on the court ordered sale under the Environment and Land Use Act.

The conditions on the $2.1 million offer on the property were to come off on Nov. 26, before the sale goes to the courts for completion in December.

If the RDOS receives the approval of the electorate, but are unable to put in an accepted offer of their own, one of the other options presented in the RDOS board meeting agenda on Nov. 19 would be to pursue the property through expropriation.

Another key factor to the preservation and prevention of development for the property is the fact that the only route of access requires vehicles to travel along the KVR Trail, something the RDOS is adamant about seeing not happen.

Pledges can be made to Save Sickle Point at kaledencommunity.com/sicklepoint.

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.


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