Public information sessions on parks plans

Some City of Penticton staff members and council are going to find themselves very busy for the next couple of Wednesdays.

Some City of Penticton staff members and council are going to find themselves very busy for the next couple of Wednesdays.

On Nov. 16, the city is holding a public information session to collect input on the first draft of the Parks and Recreation Master Plan, then on Nov. 23, they are holding a similar session for the public to discuss the settlement and Enhanced Marina Agreements the city is proposing to sign with Trio Marine Group.

There are few surprises in the high-priority recommendation from the 10-year master parks plan prepared by consultant Urban Systems.

It says the overall supply of parkland in relation to Penticton’s population in reasonable, especially due to the high quality of the city’s waterfront park. The focus, it reads, should be on asset renewal and new amenities in response to trends. That means establishing guidelines for parklands in new developments, acquiring property for parks as opportunities arise, preparing an inventory of natural and environmentally sensitive areas in parks and a strategy for protecting, enhancing and managing these areas, along with an asset management program for all parks infrastructure.

But commercial operations in parks, a key issue for many Penticton residents, isn’t addressed until later in the summary, with its own list of recommendations.

“Penticton residents support most commercial uses in parks, but there is significant concern about future major uses that could have permanent effects on parkland,”  reads the report.

Some, like Gary Denton, a member of the steering committee for the parks master plan and a member of the Save Skaha Park society, questions the conclusion that residents support most commercial uses in parks. The results of a phone summary conducted by Urban Systems, he points out, lump together “Amusements like mini golf, outdoor climbing walls and waterslides,” with 41 per cent supporting those uses in waterfront parks.

But Denton said the verbatim comments section of the same survey, however, show a trend that people see large commercial operations like the waterslides proposed by Trio as very different from small merchandise vendors and temporary attractions.

Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said a better definition of what constitutes commercial is needed, but strongly supports developing a commercial uses in parks policy and associated community engagement process as part of the parks master plan.

Denton, however, questions the justification for having a section on commercial uses in parks in the first place.

“It is the wrong starting point. Having a section devoted to commercial uses in parks is justifying them,” said Denton. “It is like saying commercial uses in parks are fine, it is just a matter of determining how much.

“We should be defining what a park is, what its purpose is and then determining what encumbrances, what types of activities are consistent with that purpose.”

The  public Open House for the Parks and Recreation Master Plan is scheduled for Nov.16 at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Urban Systems consultants and city staff will be in attendance to answer questions and receive feedback on the draft, but there will be no formal presentation.