What makes the two open houses held by Gordon Ferguson last week at the Lakawanna Park concession different is the timing.
Instead of presenting an already complete plan for public input, Ferguson decided to go to the public first to find out what they wanted to see.
Ferguson, who picked up the lease on the Lakawanna Park concession and The Peach earlier this year, said he learned a lot about process and protocol from watching the controversy over the proposed waterslide complex in Skaha Lake Park at the other end of town.
“Why wouldn’t you embrace the people that will be a part of your next 20 years?” said Ferguson.
Sharon Durante, who lives near the park, told Ferguson it was a refreshing approach when she and her husband came to the open house at the concession on Oct. 24.
“I am so impressed that you are even listening. It does sound like you are going to listen,” said Durante.
Ferguson said he heard from 105 people in person during the two open house sessions last week, along with 15 emails and 35 phone calls.
“I am delighted with the response and delighted with the thoughts on what could be done with the building and the with the park. All the comments were very positive on the need for improvements to that area,” said Ferguson. “Now my job is to put those ideas together with some of my own and formulate a proposal for city council.”
Many of the recommendations shared common elements according to Ferguson: Take advantage of the Okanagan sunshine with outdoor patio space, keep the food service casual, upbeat and fun, but offer a little variety.
Beyond the building his concession is in, Ferguson also hopes to improve the park itself, beautifying it with some flowers and shrubs. He’d also like to see the summertime vendors moved from Lakawanna Park to the park space on the opposite side of Power Street, and create a “vendor’s village,” rather than stringing out along Lakeshore Drive.
Several of the visitors also expressed their desire to see the park become more of a meeting area and the concession open later in the year to serve the many people that walk along the Lakeshore path all year round.
“There are a lot of people that walk this walk. Where do you go for a coffee along here?” asked John Durante. “It doesn’t matter if it is -5 C and I am bundled up, if I have my hot coffee.”
Ferguson said he would like to extend the season.
“This season is a perfect example, where we probably could have gone right to last week and not closed at Labour Day. If we can get a little bit more into the shoulder seasons, that would be beneficial to everyone because of the amount of walking traffic,” said Ferguson. “Being the only intersection between the SS Sicamous and the towers, it is a meeting spot.”
Ferguson hopes to have a proposal to present to Penticton city council as soon as he can, so he can begin work in time to reopen next April.