Penticton public wary of waterfront changes

Majority of those on hand for public meeting want only minor changes to Lakeshore Drive

A resident peruses the colourful post-it notes with suggestions from the public on the four concept designs for changes to Lakeshore Drive  that Penticton council is considering.

A resident peruses the colourful post-it notes with suggestions from the public on the four concept designs for changes to Lakeshore Drive that Penticton council is considering.

There were no fireworks or heated words exchanged, but a public consultation on Lakeshore Drive was not without passion.

“Let’s not change what doesn’t need changing, Change for change’s sake doesn’t make sense. I agree that improvements are needed for the retaining wall and some of the pavers should be redone, but anything other than that isn’t needed,” said Gillian Waterman. “Lakeshore Drive is an iconic part of Penticton, let’s not screw it up.”

Others that spoke on Wednesday were contrite and sometimes witty with their comments. Those included Monica Hoffman’s plea as a hard-working younger resident who wants the beach to remain a place for families to use for free, with no pay parking. She referred to some of the concepts that would see pay parking with less stalls as a “millionaire’s dream.”

Pat Styles agreed with many of the others who spoke that if there is to be changes, they should be minimal.

“This is a beautiful place and the beach is gorgeous. Some of this stuff you have going on here is like putting makeup on a pretty girl, it is unnecessary,” she said.

Former mayor Jake Kimberley took a turn at the mike, stating a study in the ‘90s showed one-way traffic on Lakeshore Drive would not work because it would create a “raceway” around Churchill Avenue, while parallel parking was rejected because it would restrict the number of parking spots and create a safety hazard. He said the retaining wall is in bad condition and recovering it was looked at in the ‘90s, but that would have meant the bicycle path would be lost.

“The bicycle path, in my opinion, is very important and I think we should reflect on Stanley Park to see how beneficial that is. A shared bike and walk path which can be achieved if we build a new retaining wall and take that out to where the present walkway is. I think that needs to be addressed,” said Kimberley.

The former mayor also suggested that RVs should not be allowed to park on the beach because it causes a hazard.

As speakers politely took their turns at the mike, abiding by Okanagan College dean and moderator Donna Lomas’s request to remain civil in her opening remarks, it seemed as though the majority of the crowd wanted to leave Lakeshore Drive as it is.

A straw vote was suggested by one crowd member and a majority of hands showed they were in favour of Concept 3. Of the four options, this is the one with the least amount of changes.

The concepts weren’t without obvious proponents in the audience. A one-page leaflet was handed out at the doors of the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre with pictures of potholes, dirty catch basins at city streets and unkept trails. It stated the city has no money to clean up these things but can “throw $7.1 million to ruin the tranquil setting of Lakeshore Drive.”

Mayor Dan Ashton was quick to kibosh that in his opening statements, saying there is $1.2 million available for capital environmental projects and it is Penticton’s share of the gas tax granted to the RDOS. He said if the design concept chosen is also the most expensive, it would be done in  phases and over time.

Ashton thanked everyone for taking part in the public consultation and providing important input. He said last winter community stakeholders felt Penticton should focus on being a vibrant, waterfront community. Council decided to make the waterfront a strategic priority because of it.

“The waterfront is a community asset for all of us here in this room, those at home and those that visit Penticton. It is important that this project reflect that as much as possible,” said Ashton.

A report of comments from the public will be forwarded to city council on Nov. 5 at their regular council meeting.