City wades into Okanagan waterfront plan

Penticton has plans for redevelopment of waterfront from the SS Sicamous to the Peach

There are a lot of issues on the Okanagan Lake waterfront. Not Marlon Brando fighting a corrupt longshoremen’s union, but old walking paths, failing walls, poor beach access and both old trees and street lighting contributing to an overall decline of the popular tourist area.

At least, those are some of the difficulties identified by the Waterfront Committee as they begin the process of creating a redevelopment plan for the stretch from the SS Sicamous to the Peach.

Committee chair Rod King dressed for the occasion, wearing a brightly coloured Hawaiian shirt as he presented the proposed process to council Monday afternoon at a special council meeting.

The Okanagan waterfront goes back to the turn of the last century and was key to the development of the city, said King, listing all the uses from agriculture, transportation and the fruit industry.

“The Okanagan Lake waterfront has been extremely valuable in its history and the development of the city of Penticton. It needs refreshment to address today’s reality of tourism and just as importantly, for the citizens of Penticton and its year-round use,” said King. “We’re one of the few cities in North America, if not the world, that sits between two stunning, gorgeous beaches.”

Redeveloping the waterfront, he said, is vital for the citizens of the city, tourists and its value to the city as a whole. However, even developing a plan, which is expected to be finished by the end of the year, is going to cost.

“This is one of the two strategic priorities council has identified and there is $150,000 budgeted for the work to unfold,” said Ian Chapman, city engineer.

Most of the money is going to garner community input, said Ashton, which will take place all through the process, as the plan is developed in stages. King said they have developed a long list of stakeholder groups to talk to, though he realized that one had been left off the list presented to council, something he plans to remedy.

“Every citizen will be talked to, with one exception, youth,” said King. “We should extend the offer out to the high schools and the college. Young people are our future visitors and hopefully they are future residents. I’m sure they will have a different perspective on needs and ideas.”

Besides meeting with stakeholder groups and holding open houses, King expects to take the quest for public input to the streets, or more accurately, the beach.

During the summer, the committee will be taking their quest for public input to the beach, asking visitors what are they looking for, what are their critiques and what are the shortfalls on the waterfront.

The detailed plan, along with budget estimates, is expected to be ready by the end of October, and go to tender over the last few months of the year, with construction beginning in 2013. King expects the needs of the tourist season will mean construction won’t be finished until late in the year.

“We can’t have lakeshore dug up in the summer,” said King. “It would be wonderful if we could complete it in the spring of 2013, but in reality I expect it will be in the fall of 2013, just to stay out of the way of our all-important tourist people.”