I am a Penticton resident, and enjoy the city and surroundings throughout the year. Most of all I love the lakefronts, and in all the seasons.
I am so grateful for the early city decision-makers who managed to keep the lakefronts open for public enjoyment and use. We are truly blessed by their foresight. We surely have an obligation to keep these areas as great public spaces for years to come, and I am glad to see city council taking action in this regard.
I have concerns, however, about this present lakeshore renewal consultation process. It seems to me that most emphasis is being given to accommodating summer recreational uses — I guess with the assumption that whatever works for that will be fine for the rest of the year. I think this assumption must be challenged.
Indeed, in the summer it’s great to see residents and visitors alike enjoying those beaches. I love them too — the swimming and sunshine and all the excitement that summer brings. And of course summer is the time when most pressure comes for access and convenience, bringing pressure on city council to consider what must be done to facilitate such heavy usage.
However, high summer usage happens for only two months of the year. The fall, winter and spring months may not see as high use as summer, but these ‘off’ seasons’ (at least three-quarters of the year) are when the lakeshore is used and treasured by residents for entirely different reasons than in summer. These are the times when one is able to appreciate seasonal rhythms in an open, natural setting, in the midst of an urban area. It’s a beautiful space available for contemplation and gentle recreational activities, especially for folks who live in closed-in city spaces, but also for all of us who love the open views of the lake, and find ‘re-creation’ for ourselves in that space.
These off seasons are times when one can be aware of little things — the changing colours of the lake and hills in fall, intricate ice patterns in winter, the spring, the fall, winter and spring activities of wild creatures — all the subtle changes from season to season. We see how this end of the lake is a refuge for birds at the most difficult time of the year. We watch how the lake renews itself after the onslaught of summer boating, but I fear that the pollution which comes with increased moorage will make renewal all the more challenging. It is just so important to keep the few remaining natural areas as they are. Once lost they are forever gone. Penticton residents will be the losers.
Just as earlier city decision-makers must have experienced huge pressures to allow private development on both lakefronts, present decision-makers are also no doubt being pressured to allow uses that result in private gain at public expense. I hope that there are no ‘hidden agendas’ controlling this planning process. The fact that pre-emptive actions have already taken place — the west end moorage and the restricted beach access beside the Sicamous, for example — make me wary of how sincere council’s intention is to make this an open and authentic public consultation before any action is taken.
How lucky we are in Penticton to have the Okanagan beach area so close to the downtown area, and yet be so beautifully natural. Let’s keep it that way as much as possible.