The city’s decision to review the idea of erecting a BMX park at 630 Munson Mountain Rd. is again being met with opposition.
“We’d be interested in farming this land, but right now it doesn’t seem as if that’s even being considered,” said Tony Holler, a neighbouring farmer of the property. Hollar’s comments were made as part of a press conference at the site on July 23, where he was joined by other neighbours opposed to the BMX park.
Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said no formal proposal for farming has been submitted, but the city would consider it.
“We had a vacant, empty piece of land that we wanted to get some community benefit and utilization out of, and we’re still open to whatever makes sense.”
To allow for the development of a park, the city applied to the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) in April asking to have the site removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve. The response was a no, claiming insufficient information. In response, the city hired a private agrologist to analyze the soil to see what it would be good for. The test showed that only 3.25 acres of the 10 acre property are arable, and that space is scattered around the property and would require additional investment for agricultural use.
“The agrologist report doesn’t paint a favourable picture (for agricultural use),” Jakubeit said, citing a $400,000 estimate to restore the top two feet of soil.
“They took multiple samples at multiple depths to evaluate the quality of the soil and commented on what it would take to bring it up to farming standards, and also of what the impact a bike track would have on the neighbouring agricultural uses, and what the neighbouring agricultural uses might have on a proposed BMX track.”
Hollar believes the city should make the investment to restore the land.
“It’s not like a dump of chemicals — the only egregious material is pavement,” he said.
And despite the agrologist’s report’s bleak outlook of the soil quality, Hollar said those conditions are prevalent throughout Okanagan farms, yet agricultural producers still manage to prosper.
“All the soil seems terrible, but farmers still manage to grow great crops,” he said.
He said while the 10-acre property is relatively small for agricultural use, the decision to develop it into a BMX park continues to erode Penticton’s agri-tourism allure.
“This is the thin end of the wedge,” he said. “There is no regard for farmland or parkland (in Penticton). If we want to be like Kelowna then carry on.”
Hollar said Jakubeit seems to be against parks, “and in general he’s just all for development.”
Jakubeit is asking the farmers to pitch their proposal formally.
“If a farmer is truly interested in that piece of property to lease, and they want to do their own soil report, they certainly can get permission from us to go on site and conduct those.”
The BMX park will only take up 20 to 30 per cent of the property, and Jakubeit said that a compromise can likely be reached.
“We still could have other use such as gardening or something agricultural – council is open to that.”
Regardless of the outcome at 630 Munson Mountain Rd., Jakubeit also said it’s important to help Penticton BMX, which is limited in its operations because of the size of its existing track.
“We want to complement the outstanding mountain biking we have in the area and help the cycling precinct concept that we’re trying to nurture and grow.”