On April 3, I attended the CPAWS (Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society) presentation at the Riverside Centre in Princeton regarding the possibility of a national park in the Similkameen and left the presentation with a whole bunch of unanswered questions. Foremost, what does this community really want and what do we want this community to look like?
At the meeting, a number of people spoke against the national park. Foremost among the naysayers was a lobby from a group of cattle ranchers. Cattle ranchers are known for their resistance to change. They are a stoic, self-made breed of cat that do not want change at any cost. And in another world that might work, but today in a community that is at risk of dying that is not possible.
People are not flocking or relocating to Princeton and Area H in record numbers. As a matter of fact, the population is decreasing. In all other jurisdictions in the southern Okanagan the population is on the increase. Small business is having difficulty, schools are facing declining enrolment, and need I mention health care.
Every other evening, the Princeton hospital is featured on the news describing the latest emergency closure. This community is desperate for growth in order to maintain the few amenities we have and not lose more. We need to attract and keep the young families we have in this community, but our collective actions continue to do the exact opposite.
Younger folks — those under 50 — that I talk to are just shaking there collective heads. “If this is the wisdom of the elders, (saying “No” to everything) I want nothing of it and will be leaving.”
A community with a future is not possible without young families. They make possible the sustainability of a community, plain and simple. With all due respect, retired and aging folks, even though we would like to believe the opposite, do not foster tremendous growth in a community.
Communities grow when schools grow, when hospitals have obstetric capabilities, when recreational facilities are supported, and on and on. I believe we need to make a few decisions that will inspire some growth in this community, so as to be able to afford a few amenities. We then may be able to attract some of the health care professionals we are in desperate need of and perhaps keep this hospital open.
There is a bigger picture here than just the needs of a few cattle ranchers objecting to change. We are talking about the survival of a community. We can keep saying “No” to every initiative that comes through our valley and our population will continue to slowly disappear. We are at risk of becoming the “endangered species” if we do not make some progressive moves.
I am supporting the national park initiative because of the potential positive spinoffs it can bring to the region, in addition to projected annual revenues of $37 million. I urge the rest of you to speak up and do the same. I am proud of this community and want it to grow and realize its potential.