More than 300 acres of land designated for residential development was added to Penticton’s park inventory Monday evening.
The block was formerly part of the Northeast Sector plan, and historically has been used for grazing and ranching, though in recent years it has become a destination for outdoor recreation, especially mountain biking in the area known as Three Blind Mice.
That cycling use was formalized earlier last fall through a land use agreement with the Penticton and Area Cycling Association for the development of a mountain bike terrain park.
Having the subject lands designated as a park gives PACA the ability to continue developing the area into a destination mountain bike park without the threat of housing development.
Laura Harp, PACA president, said that bikers have been building and maintaining trails in the area since the 1990s.
“It became apparent last year that with increasing popularity and use, the community needed a more unified approach for the longevity of the trails,” said Harp. “We weren’t trying to make that a dedicated mountain bike area, we just needed to have permission to try to help maintain the trails.”
This spring, PACA hired an international expert to train a group in building and maintaining trails. They’ve begun installing trailhead kiosks and have hired Alpine Bike Parks to develop a master plan for the area.
“We are raring to go and just need the security that the land and support will be there for the long term,” said Harp. A forester will also be hired by the city at a cost of $5,000 to develop a forest management plan to preserve the area and minimize effects like erosion of the land.
Some local residents had concerns about PACA holding the licence to use the area from the city.
“I appreciate that people want to move to Penticton as a mountain biking destination. I bought my property so I would have access to those hills to hike with my dog, to ride with both my horses. We were there before there were mountain bikes,” said Ingrid Schellenberg, a local resident. She feels better about the project after speaking with Harp, adding that she hopes they can keep the parkland accessible to everyone. “To the hikers, to the bikers, to the horses, as well as the mountain bikers.”
Dedicating the area to park rather than residential also helps Penticton meet its commitment to becoming carbon neutral.
Chris Allen, chair of the city’s climate action committee, said the move is the equivalent of purchasing $365,000 worth of carbon credits.
“In the first year, the offset will be roughly 6,500 tonnes,” said Allen. “By doing this one project, the city can meet the commitment they made in 2007.”