Column: After four years, Skaha Lake Park issue has an ending

For me, the top story of last year isn’t really a 2017 story.

This story started in 2015 when Penticton city council agreed to lease a portion of Skaha Lake Park to a developer to build a commercial waterslide complex. Or did it start in 2013, when city hall asked for expressions of interest from developers that wanted to take over the marina and build a commercial amenity at the corner of the lake?

That expression of interest request, which detailed the possibility of leasing a chunk of the park, went largely unnoticed, as did the silence of the developers on their project — because, they said, the city had them sign a non-disclosure agreement.

When the information was finally released to the public, a month before city council approved the lease, that’s when the public noticed what was about to happen to the park. By late July, people were protesting in front of city hall; but not just the five or 10 a protest usually draws, but hundreds.

Related: Opposition to Skaha development said they won’t slide away

From there, it was close to two years more of protests, civil suits, conspiracy accusations and more, including tens of thousands of dollars being spent by both sides as the issue remained the most divisive topic in town.

What makes this my top story of 2017 is that this is the year it all finally came to an end. After renegotiating the deal with the developers to remove the park lease and protect green space in the park at the end of 2016, the deal ended completely in September, with the city announcing it would pay the penalty fee for cancelling the deal.

Related: City and Trio Marine Group deal terminated

It wasn’t just the fact of the long battle ending that is important. It’s also important because it showed that you can fight city hall and win. It also brought positive change. From the mayor brushing off the protests in the beginning, he has now admitted that the city and council made mistakes, especially in communicating with the public and understanding what the community wants.

The new parks and recreation master plan is yet to be finished, so it’s not yet clear how, or even whether, the plan will limit commercial development in parks. It is also too early to say if the city’s new engagement and communication strategy, developed partly in response to the Skaha Lake Park battle, will be carried into the long term and through successive councils.

But at least the direction the city is moving in right now is a positive one.

Related: Parks Society presses on with wider mandate

Steve Kidd is the senior reporter for the Penticton Western News. He can be reached at skidd@pentictonwesternnews.com.

Just Posted

Tommy Chong says cannabis legalization makes him proud to be a Canadian

Legendary marijuana advocate and comedian celebrates cultural milestone at Kelowna event

Award-winning singer/songwriter Christina Martin coming to the Penticton

Christina Martin is bringing her unique musical talents to the Dream Café this Saturday.

Two vehicle collision on the Channel Parkway

Two vehicles were involved in an accident on Friday afternoon in Penticton

Poll: Who do you think will be the next mayor of Penticton?

We are asking Penticton residents to weigh in on who will win the mayor’s seat

Okanagan competitors to be featured in arm wrestling documentary

Arm Nation, featuring competitions from Kelowna and Penticton, will air on Oct. 20 on APTN

Cough cough: Kelowna MLA gets flu shot to prep for the cold season

Steve Thomson got his flu shot from Lakeside Medicine Centre Friday

VOTE: Nature in Focus reader’s choice photo contest

The Penticton Western News Reader’s Choice photo contest

Who’s running in Penticton’s election?

Candidates for the Penticton municipal and school board election

‘Mom, I’m in trouble:’ Canadian faces 10 years for alleged graffiti

Brittney Schneider, another tourist caught spraying message on walls of Tha Pae Gate in Thailand

Feds consulting on national anti-racism strategy behind closed doors

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez says people still face systemic racism in some communities

Black trucks figure prominently in Shuswap thefts

Chase RCMP investigating stolen vehicles from several communities

Enbridge aims for mid-November to finish B.C. pipeline repair after blast

A natural gas pipeline that ruptured and burned near Prince George caused an explosion and fireball

How to get government cheques if Canada Post staff go on strike

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers said members could go on rotating strikes as early as Monday

Most Read