Discovery Park will be Penticton’s first natural playground

Penticton will be getting its first natural playground, Discovery Park, located near Skaha Lake.

Penticton acting mayor Garry Litke gives president Deborah O'Mara of the South Okanagan Children's Charity a push on the swing at Skaha Lake park Monday

Penticton acting mayor Garry Litke gives president Deborah O'Mara of the South Okanagan Children's Charity a push on the swing at Skaha Lake park Monday

The lonely looking swing set perched behind the concession at the turnaround at Skaha Lake is about to become part of something bigger.

Penticton will be getting its first natural playground, Discovery Park, which will be an imaginative play space aimed at helping children connect with nature.

“This playground will be completely natural, it will include things such as rock boulders for the children to climb on,” said Deborah O’Mara, president of the South Okanagan Children’s Charity. “Probably the most important feature in my opinion is going to be the water feature. There is a dry creek bed with a pump and it will teach children the importance of their natural environment in terms of water conservation and just what a limited and important natural resource that is, particularly in the Okanagan.”

Appropriately announced on Earth Day, the unique playground will be custom-built, accessible to all and made primarily from natural resources to create earth berm slides, boulders sourced from local rock quarries, rope climbing features, balancing logs built from beetle-infested pine trees, musical instruments, a playhouse and the swings from the original park will be recycled into the project. O’Mara said the designation of calling it Discovery Park is actually to encourage the use of children’s imagination.

“Children will arrive and will not be exactly sure how to play. They are going to have to use their imagination to pretty well use every element of this park,” she said.

The area that will become Discovery Park was chosen because the surrounding green space is used extensively by families for picnics and is in close proximity to the beach. Construction is slated to begin in September and O’Mara said the tennis courts will not be impacted by Discovery Park.

The price tag for the park is $110,000. It was announced on Monday that over $80,000 has already been secured from several project partners including the City of Penticton ($30,000), Rotary Club of Penticton ($25,000), Tim Horton’s 2012 Smile Cookie campaign ($11,230), the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan ($6,000) and another $10,000 from Sun FM and EZ Rock promotions and the Working Women’s Open golf tournament.

The South Okanagan Children’s Charity has been committed to supporting children and teens in communities throughout the South Okanagan for 35 years. Through their Miracle Fund, community partners are brought together to develop capital projects all over the South Okanagan that benefit the health and well-being of children and teens. This includes restoration of bikes at Penticton Safety Village and a fetal heart monitor for the Penticton Regional Hospital amongst other projects.

“We now have until Sept. 1 to come up with another $30,000 and I feel very confident that as this project is exposed to the broader community, that our business community, our service clubs and our very generous donors in the community will step forward to support it and I welcome the opportunity to speak to each and every one of them,” said O’Mara.

Acting mayor Garry Litke said there has been a lot of attention on Okanagan Lake improvements but the city is also focused on improving the waterfront at Skaha Lake. Last year they planted 50 trees in Skaha Lake Park.

“Penticton’s vision is to make Penticton a vibrant, innovative, adventurous, waterfront city focused on sustainability, community and economic opportunity. This project helps with some of that vision, it brings some of that vision to life,” said Litke.

“It will become a unique feature for children living here and for children who are visiting here. Attracting young families to our community is also part of maintaining our community’s vibrancy.”