The fencing around the bandshell in Penticton’s Gyro Park may have to stay up a lot longer than planned until a more permanent solution comes about, said the city’s heritage committee.
At the most recent City of Penticton heritage committee’s meeting on July 7, city staff explained the reasoning behind the fencing to protect the historic bandshell from an increase in ‘undesirable activity.’
The bandshell was originally constructed in 1936 and rebuilt in 1951. It is one of 54 structures on the city’s heritage registry.
It’s been used for Peach Fest, the Elvis Festival, presentations and rallies and many moments in history including hosting Prime Minster Justin Trudeau a couple years ago, explained city director of development services Blake Laven.
Normally, the bandshell is a busy place with bookings for events and gathering as well as spontaneous concerts in the park, but since COVID-19 restricted gathering, the event stage has gone unused.
During this time, bylaw and city staff have been facing constant pressure to patrol the bandshell which has seen a large increase in overnight sleeping, open drug use and paraphernalia, graffiti and general undesirable behaviour, said Laven.
“We also received a lot of complaints from the daycare who use the park on a daily basis that they are feeling unsafe,” Laven told the committee.
Neighbouring residents also have complained, said Laven.
Last year, the city put up a siren that came on upon a motion detection, but that didn’t work very well for the neighbours in the area. A strobe light that blinks a very bright light didn’t deter the activity either, said Laven.
Because of the ongoing concerns, council supported installing fencing as a temporary measure. Council also gave direction for the heritage committee to look at longer term solutions.
The city did a Crime Prevention through Environment Design study which recommended increased lighting, cameras and putting up large signage on the fence indicating what is appropriate behaviour for the park.
“We were expecting a bit more from that report,” said Laven.
Committee members said they are concerned a fire could take place on the bandshell.
Committee member Anne Hargrave suggested the city look into the Heritage Legacy Fund for funding.
“We missed applying for this year, but could for next year,” she said.
One committee member said the fencing is not a very welcoming look for tourists.
“It looks like we are trying to keep people out,” said Nicole Ensing.
“Fencing wasn’t our favourite choice,” said Coun. Judy Sentes who sits on the heritage committee.
The other issue with the fencing is every time there is an event, staff have to move the fencing.
At the latest event, the inauguration of new city councillor James Miller, by the time the fence was taken away shopping carts showed up and bylaws had to move people on, said Laven.
One committee member suggested that fencing put on a track be investigated into cost and design.
In the end, the committee voted to keep the temporary fencing up around the bandshell until a better design and solution is made.
City council will take their motion to decision at its July 20 meeting.
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