Keep waterfront’s natural values

Penticton's waterfront plan should aim to maintain and restore nature for people and wildlife

I am glad to see that the city is looking at our waterfront, but I am concerned that they may not be considering all of the public interests.

The Waterfront Enhancement Select Committee terms of reference (TOR) and structure do not seem to have much of a consideration for the environment. The members are all representing organized recreation and business, despite the natural values of the waterfront. This committee was not included in the general call for volunteers for City of Penticton committees that was released for 2012.

I was told by city staff that ‘select committees’ were sub-committees to the advisory committees. However, now that the information has been released, TOR actually only includes appointed members representing business and organized recreation.

In the minutes there are two members at large and one Penticton Business Development Society representative (not identified in the TOR), and it is not clear how they even got on the committee. Although one can hope that the members at large expand the perspectives represented. This is not meant to criticize those who are volunteering their time, it is to highlight the apparently intentional lack of diversity in the select committee.

Reference materials for the committee do not include any of the ecological reporting or guidelines for lakes in the Okanagan including: Foreshore Inventory Mapping of Okanagan and Skaha Lakes, or the Aquatic Habitat Index for Okanagan Lake. These reports were completed with the assistance of local governments and with a focus on development and land use; provincial best management practices or Fisheries and Oceans operating statements; and Okanagan large lakes foreshore protocol.

Meeting minutes to date are vague about the Esplanade area (the only semi-natural area left on any of the city lakefronts).

The focus for this year, according to the engineering report to council, seems to be on Lakeshore Drive — the environmental issues are indirectly identified from a recreational standpoint: sand erosion, aging trees and landscaping opportunities. I hope the city is going to take this opportunity to look at some habitat restoration using native plants as part of its ‘landscaping’.

With the exception of ministry staff, the stakeholders list does not include any reference to those that are interested in fish, wildlife, birds, water quality, mental health or any other natural value of the waterfront.

However, I am heartened to see that there has been some money set aside to look at some of the environmental requirements both for Skaha and Okanagan Lake. Beyond seeing the consideration of the environment as just a legislated requirement, it would be a great step for this city council to consider nature as an important part of what draws people to the waterfront.

Many local governments have taken steps to maintain and restore nature for people and wildlife. I hope to see that the City of Penticton can lead by example as well, and work with the environment that is so important to our sustainable quality of life.

S. Eksal