Despite not being represented on Penticton’s new Parks and Recreation Master Plan Steering committee, Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said members of the Save Skaha Park Society will have chances for input.
But having one of their members sit on the committee was not in the cards, he explained.
“I would say that if you sue the city, you sort of negate your right to sit on one of their committees,” said Jakubeit. “It makes it sort of an awkward situation.”
Their members, he continued, will have their chance to participate when elements of the parks master plan are brought out to the public for input.
“We are disappointed that they are not willing to hear from a reasoned voice of opposition to the process they have followed and the decision they have made,” said Gerry Karr, one of the organizers of the society.
Since July, the deal to lease part of Skaha Park to Trio Marine to develop a waterslide has been one of the most controversial topics in Penticton, bringing focus to the future of parks in the community, especially through the awareness raising work of the Save Skaha Park Society.
If the new committee is going to make the best use of information and make the best decisions, the society should have been represented, according to Karr.
“We would have thought our point of view, which represents the feelings of over 5,000 citizens, would be something they would be eager to have,” he said. “It is a loss for the people of Penticton not to have the reasoned input of a large group of citizens who feel very strongly about the role of parkland in our city.”
Earlier this month, Penticton City Council announced who was going to be sitting on the committee tasked with developing a new parks master plan for the city. However, the committee doesn’t include any members of the group that arguably was one of the factors in council deciding to set up the committee.
The current committee includes Doug Gorcek, representing School District 67, Kevin Gabriel, representing the Penticton Indian Band, Ezra Cremers and Roland Curnow for organized field sports; Barb Hoolaeff for special events; Adolf Steffen representing developers along with James Palanio, Peter Dooling, Ron Ramsay and Sharon Devlin as general public representatives. Jakubeit and Coun. Judy Sentes will represent the city.
“The parks committee is bigger than the one issue we had this year. It is global or community-wide parks and recreation master plan we are striving for,” said Jakubeit, adding the committee does include people not in favour of the Skaha Park deal.
“If you were to ask them independently what side of the Skaha Park issue they were on, I think you would find it somewhat balanced on that committee,” said Jakubeit. “I know there are some others on that committee who like it as a nature park. I feel that there is strong balance on the committee.”
Karr said there is no conflict of interest including one of their members on the committee.
“It is simply an opportunity to get the best possible input about what kind of parks we need and that is why we were surprised and very disappointed,” said Karr. “I think it is fair to say our credibility is fairly high in the community.”