Council will be taking another stab at getting a BMX track on 630 Munson Mountain Rd.
Because of conflicting beliefs over how arable the soil is, the property has been the subject of recent debate. In May, council ordered an independent agrology test to be conducted. Results from that test were presented to council at the regular meeting on July 6, and convinced council them reapply to the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) for the site to be used for non-farm use to allow for a BMX track. Council submitted a similar application in April, but the ALC rejected it because of insufficient soil analysis — which was addressed by the recent sampling test.
The test showed that only 3.25 acres of the 10 acre property are arable, and that space is scattered around the property and would require additional investment for agricultural use.
“It really gave a clear picture that the vast majority of that land is not suitable for farming,” said Penticton Mayor Andrew Jakubeit.
While procedures could be undertaken to utilize some of the land for agricultural use, “It’s probably not the best investment to fill (the property’s top layer) with top soil.”
However, he said a small portion of the property could possibly be used for agriculture, such as a community garden.
The idea of a community garden on site was also suggested by the proponents of the project, Penticton BMX.
“We’re pretty confident that it’s going to happen now that we have the soil samples back and the way they turned out,” said club executive member Jeff Babuin. “To me it’s a good thing for the community to have the BMX track and the mountain bike skills park there — it’ll be a great spot for residents of all ages.”
Both Babuin and Jakubeit are expecting the opposition to lessen, but not disappear.
“There are some neighbours who are probably opposed to anything happening in their backyard, but I think the report will certainly lessen some of the resistance,” Jakubeit said.
In April, the Friends of Munson Mountain formed to oppose the project. The group is still encouraging supporters to sign its petition to have the city “Stop BMX, mountain bike, and camping developments on Munson Mountain Park and agricultural land.”
The petition, which can be found through the Friends of Munson Mountain Facebook page, had 144 signatures as of press deadline.
The founder of the group, Lauren Calancie, said the bike park will come at the cost of agricultural land and natural parks.
“This land belongs to the citizens of Penticton. The amount of money that is being spent on this small, special interest group and the vigour with which the city is pursuing this project doesn’t make any sense — especially in light of the fact that an interested local farmer has come forward with an offer to lease the land. This stinks of something really fishy.”
Jakubeit said some residents may be steadfast in their beliefs that agricultural use could be realized, but the agrology report will “weed out some of that.”
“An independent professional said there’s really only three acres that are somewhat arable,” he said. “And it would be expensive to bring it up to grade.”
He wasn’t fixated exclusively on the idea of a BMX park, but Jakubeit doesn’t like the idea of public land sitting empty.
“We want to see a vacant piece of land get added to parkland to add better community benefit and utilization.”
He said even if the ALC approves their latest application, the city will have to hold a public hearing before deciding whether or not to add the site to park space.
“Based on what they say, that’ll dictate how we move forward,” he said “It still has to go through a fair process, and we’ll see where that takes us.”