It has taken a lot longer than first planned, but in June Penticton city council will be debating and possibly approving some major changes to how parks land is dealt with in the community.
There are three key recommendations coming out of the Parks and Recreation Master Plan Task Force: a new park dedication bylaw, a parkland protection and use policy and the new parks and rec master plan itself.
In addition to providing improved planning and governance, these moves may better allow community members to become involved in decisions surrounding parkland.
The new park dedication bylaw ensures any lease or sale of parkland contained in the bylaw requires elector approval. Along with the parkland protection and use policy, which includes a 10-step process for considering future parkland use and requirements for public engagement, may prevent a recurrence of the controversy that began in 2015 when council agreed to lease a portion of Skaha Lake Park for a private waterslide development.
Gary Denton, a member of the task force and an opponent of the waterslide lease, said he is pleased with the recommendations made by the task force. While it had taken some time, the committee was talking the same language after being “thrown into an atmosphere of dissension,” at the start of the process.
“We were arguing about whether there should be commercial uses in parks,” he said. “At the end of the process, we were all talking about how we protect them. No one on the committee was talking about preserving the right to commercialize parks.”
A key factor for Denton was the removal of the commercial uses in parks section from the proposed Parks and Rec master plan.
“Why would we even have a section on commercial uses in parks?” Denton asked, adding his personal research showed such sections were anything but common. It was replaced by the parkland protection and use policy, which Denton said changed the conversation.
“To me, that is really significant. We are talking about park protection. We’re not talking about commercialization anymore,” said Denton. “There is a time and place for commercialization and the door isn’t blocked to a commercial proposal.”
A proposal like the waterslide, Denton said, would now have to go through a public procedure, if council chooses to adopt the task force recommendations.
“I thought the Task Force did a great job challenging, debating and ultimately forming three key documents that will protect parks, better define usage and be the guiding document to parks and recreation needs, trends and opportunities into the future”, said Mayor Andrew Jakubeit. “It took longer than expected but I think the end result closes the loop on the ambiguity surrounding park uses and the process to involve the public for input and approval. The past plan for parks and recreation was from 1993, so we are in desperate need of an update.”
Anthony Haddad, director of community development said that with the task force’s endorsement, city staff are preparing to present the three recommendations to city council.
“The work the community has contributed towards the plan under the guidance of the Steering Committee over the past two years has provided for a more robust decision-making process when it comes to parks and recreation,” said Haddad.
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News
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