The Save Skaha Park group has followed through on a warning they would turn to the courts if the City of Penticton didn’t back down from a deal to lease part of the park to a private developer.
The group announced Sept. 28 they had served a civil claim against the city and Trio Marine Group, aimed at preventing the deal, which would see the company receive a 29 year lease on nearly six acres on the eastern side of the park from going ahead. According to a press release issued Monday, Save Skaha Park hired legal counsel and filed our civil claim on September 25 in the B.C. Supreme Court, challenging the lawfulness of the city’s deal with Trio.
After a special meeting on June 29, Penticton city council gave the go ahead to a lease agreement with Trio Marine Group for Skaha Marina and a portion of the park. Trio plans to continue to operate and upgrade the marina, along with building new amenities, including a restaurant and a commercial waterslide complex on the area of the park now occupied by the children’s splash pad.
The group is concerned that council has continued on with the deal, despite opposition from almost 5,000 residents and 2,820 non-residents who have signed petitions requesting a referendum on the waterslide, along with two rallies that drew hundreds of people, both protesters and supporters of the development, to the steps of city hall. The Save Skaha Park group claims the area is Penticton’s only natural park, “graced with hundreds of beautiful trees, meandering paths, and a small creek.”
“It is a relaxing, restorative place and needs no enhancement. A commercial waterpark is totally inconsistent with its purpose and will destroy its serene and healing ambience so valued by Penticton residents,” reads the press release. The group is also concerned that the lease deal with Trio Marine could set a precedent for other parks, that commercializing the park without community consent would make it easier for this and future councils to do the same in other parks.
“Save Skaha Park thought long and hard before making this decision. We wish no ill to our mayor and councilors or to Trio, but we cannot let this bad decision go unchallenged, writes organizer Lisa Martin in the release. “We feel there is just too much at stake for the future of our City. “We simply can’t stand by and let this happen without a fight. We believe that the purpose of our parks is people, not profit.”