National park bid gets boost

Regional district votes to urge province to resume talks with feds on park for South Okanagan-Similkameen

National park proponents in the region now have some back-up in their fight to have the province resume exploration of the idea.

On Thursday, the board of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen voted to urge the province to resume talks with the federal government. The board will also now ask that the province to be kept in the loop on those talks, and to release to the public a Parks Canada feasibility study that explores the pros and cons of the idea.

The three-part motion was brought to the table by Osoyoos Mayor Stu Wells, who is also an RDOS director.

Wells was careful to note that his “rather innocuous” motion does not mean the RDOS has taken a position for or against the park, but rather wants the province to “re-engage the dialogue.”

Although Wells won support for the bulk of his motion from the majority of the board, Directors George Bush, Manfred Bauer and Mark Pendergraft voted against urging the province to reopen talks with the feds. Directors Allan Patton and Angelique Wood left the room. Patton said he thought his vote could be construed as him taking a position on the park.

Bush, who represents Cawston, said he opposes the park, proposed for an undefined spot likely in his area, because it will hurt agriculture in the region.

West Bench Director Michael Brydon said what happens at the regional district table is irrelevant because it’s a national park and a national issue.

“What we need is federal leadership,” Brydon said.

Kaleden Director Tom Siddon said it was a “terrible tragedy” when the province decided to “turn down the opportunity to have a national park. It won’t come again.”

In December 2011, B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake announced the province would no longer support the creation of a national park in the region due to a lack of support.

The concept of a park was first raised in 2003. A federal-provincial committee studied the issue for nearly eight years and eventually submitted the aforementioned feasibility study to the province.