Lisa Martin, along with other members of the Save Skaha Park Society rallied at a Parks and Recreation master plan committee earlier this year, trying to send the message that commerce in Penticton parks is not okay.                                Western News file photo

Lisa Martin, along with other members of the Save Skaha Park Society rallied at a Parks and Recreation master plan committee earlier this year, trying to send the message that commerce in Penticton parks is not okay. Western News file photo

Society asking council to add more protection for parks

A new proposal would see parks registered with Land Titles Office

The Save Skaha Park Society is proposing to put protection of Penticton parks into the hands of the province, rather than just city hall.

The proposal would see the city register dedicated parkland with the provincial Land Titles Office.

“The idea would be to have the 12 or 13 dedicated parks in Penticton have survey reports listed with Land Titles. Once any property is listed under land titles, then it comes under the protection of the (provincial) Community Charter,” said Lisa Martin, spokesperson for the SSPS.

“That is an extra added safeguard, that if the city then wished to dispose of any of those parklands, they could only do it with the assent of the electorate.”

The proposal from the SSPS advisory committee would see city council replace or amend the 2002 park dedication bylaw with one that along with the land title registry, would explicitly require the approval of the electorate for disposition, including leasing, of public parkland.

The SSPS was formed in 2015 in response to the city signing a 29-year lease with Trio Marine Group for a section of Skaha Lake Park, where they proposed to build a commercial waterslide complex.

That deal was replaced with a much less ambitious lease agreement, which itself was terminated in July.

A commercial use policy is being developed as part of the new Parks and Recreation Master Plan, which Mayor Andrew Jakubeit has said will address how future commercial proposals are handled, including what would trigger a referendum to get public agreement.

Related: Groups rally to send a message to city hall

Martin says that isn’t sufficient to prevent future developments in parks. Like the clause in the 2002 bylaw that speaks to “uses related or ancillary” to the use of parks, the commercial use policy offers an out for the city to press commercial development in the future.

“The Trio Skaha Marina waterpark agreement approved by council in 2015 without voter approval revealed that the expected protection (in the 2002 bylaw) was an illusion,” reads the society’s Oct. 13 message to Penticton city council.

The SSPS letter to council also states that “an explicit and unequivocal requirement for electoral approval of parkland disposition” is needed “for the City to regain public trust and avoid recurring costly and divisive conflicts over parkland disposition.”