The currently proposed boundaries for the national park in the South Okanagan Similkameen. (Parks Canada)

The currently proposed boundaries for the national park in the South Okanagan Similkameen. (Parks Canada)

Progress on new South Okanagan national park steadily advancing

COVID-19 has led to delays in reaching an establishment agreement

Discussions on the proposed national park reserve in the South Okanagan Similkameen have continued steadily through COVID-19.

Parks Canada distributed an update to the medial and residents near the proposed national park on Aug. 12.

The current working boundaries of the reserve would cover 270 square kilometres, or 27,300 hectares of land stretching from the Similkameen Valley along Highway 3 to the Okanagan Valley along Highway 97.

Since signing a memorandum of understanding on July 2, 2019, the provincial and federal governments and representatives of the Lower Similkameen and Osoyoos Indian Bands have been meeting and working on the proposed park.

READ MORE: National park reserve gets the go ahead

As part of those discussions, as well as discussions with directors of the local areas in the regional district, Parks Canada has confirmed that there will be no expropriation of any privately held land within the boundaries of the reserve.

Further, all provincial Crown lands within the working boundary of the proposed national park reserve, including the existing South Okanagan Grasslands Protected Area, remain under the jurisdiction and management of the province of British Columbia until the proposed national park reserve is established.

The park has proven a contentious issue for many in the region.

In a survey conducted in 2019, 75 per cent of the 300 people who responded wanted to hold a full referendum on the proposed park.

READ MORE: Opposition to Parks Canada managing park reserve in South Okanagan-Similkameen continues

Operation and management of the park, such as any campsites or allowable activities, has not been discussed as part of the ongoing establishment planning, and would come after the park is established.

Parks Canada has said that it will provide long-term opportunities for sustainable tourism and local jobs in the area, and in addition to maintaining grazing, it will protect a rare ecosystem, strengthen biodiversity and contribute to the recovery of species at risk.

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