Taxpayers from as far away as Princeton and Osoyoos will contribute to the maintenance of the trail that runs alongside the Okanagan River channel through Penticton.
The outlying areas’ representatives on the board of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen were unsuccessful Thursday in their bid to shoot down a $42,000-a-year deal with the City of Penticton and Penticton Indian Band to pay for ongoing trail cleanup and repair.
“I don’t see any benefit to the Similkameen in this,” said opponent Angelique Wood, the RDOS director for Hedley and rural Keremeos.
“We have a river. People float down it. It’s called the Similkameen,” she said.
Oliver Mayor Ron Hovanes, also an RDOS director, noted Penticton doesn’t get outside help with its other tourist draws.
“You’re not asking all of us to participate in the maintenance of your beaches because they’re bringing hordes of people to the Okanagan,” Hovanes said. “You’re looking after those beaches by yourself because you respect and understand the economic engine that it is.”
Andrew Jakubeit, a Penticton city councillor and RDOS director, said the contract represents the “first test” of a protocol agreement the RDOS signed in June with three First Nations that commits the groups to work together on regional issues.
The $14,000 the RDOS agreed to contribute annually to river trail maintenance “is really a small amount,” he said, “but it has big implications, so we need to be very mindful of that.”
John Vassilaki, another Penticton city councillor and RDOS director, said the contract provides a good base for future negotiations regarding trails elsewhere that run through First Nations territory.
“That’s how we should be looking at this: If we want them to co-operate with us, we have to co-operate with them,” Vassilaki said.
Money for the maintenance contract will be drawn from the RDOS trails budget.
“The regional trail service is not flush with money. The best place to put that money is in upgrades and capital expenditures, and leave the yearly maintenance to our local areas,” said Rural Oliver Director Allan Patton, who opposed the agreement.
The RDOS board approved its part in the contract by a 10-8 vote. Penticton city council is expected to give its assent at its Aug. 19 meeting.
The deal, which runs through 2018, will split three ways the annual cost to the PIB to employ someone to look after the trail, over which it claims ownership, from the dam at Okanagan Lake to Skaha Beach.
Earlier this summer, PIB-owned Coyote Cruises announced it would impose a $2 environmental levy on each person who floated the channel from the company’s entry point on Riverside Drive. Public outcry sunk that idea and the PIB instead sought an agreement with local governments.