City digs into work on Skaha Lake Park

Princess Margaret Secondary students join in efforts to plant more than 50 new trees as Penticton enhances waterfront area

Joel Deboeck

Joel Deboeck

Work going on in Skaha Lake Park drew considerable attention Tuesday, as the city moved ahead with its tree planting project, aided by about 30 volunteers from Princess Margaret Secondary.

Passers-by stopped and leaned over the fence to watch the mixed crews of students and city workers planting more than 50 new trees, shrubs and seedlings in the central section of the park that the city began redeveloping earlier this year.

The funding will further the city’s plan for park development, particularly the new three-acre Skaha Park expansion program.

“The city owns everything over there except one of those homes, and in the future this park will expand right out to Elm Street. So we might be calling some of you back, hopefully in the near future, to carry on,” said Mayor Dan Ashton, addressing the students.

Funding for the replant project is coming from a $15,000 Green Streets grant from the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation and Tree Canada. Overall, 75 municipalities applied for one of the annual grants, with only 21 being selected as recipients, including Penticton’s 2012 urban reforestation program.

“These trees will contribute to a stronger, healthier urban forest,” said Dave Field of Tree Canada. “This benefits the whole community for years to come.”

“The plantings will provide habitat and food for wildlife and improve air quality, as well as promote community involvement in the protection and preservation of our urban forest,” said Mary Desjardins, executive director of the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation.

Skaha Park features a large stand of mature, indigenous ponderosa pine.

Over the past few years, many of these trees have been removed due to two major windstorms and an ongoing battle with pine beetle, which affects urban trees as easily as those in forest stands. This has resulted in a dramatic reduction of tree canopy, an important feature that provides shade to families and tourists who visit the park throughout the year.

In order to restore and preserve the urban forest that is so important to the community, the City of Penticton has embarked upon a tree planting program to add new trees to the park and replace those that were lost.

“In our schools we talk a lot about being green, about the environment and about looking after where we live,” said Ginny Manning, chair of the Okanagan Skaha School Board, who supports the legacy the students are leaving the city.

“This is just a small segment of it, and I certainly appreciate the work that is being done by our staff, by our students, by the city to make this truly a place to live forever.”