The best response to Mr. Knodel’s and other Willowbrook residents’ concerns (Penticton Western News, Dec. 13, Willowbrook resident shares thoughts on national park) about the national park reserve affecting their properties and way of life is those given by Parks Canada and the B.C. Ministry of Environment.
The lack of set boundaries is a function of the process of creating a park; broad concept (or what are called ‘soft’) boundaries are established, which may appear to include areas that really aren’t in. This is the case here: “Parks Canada (said) it does not include communities within new national park reserves,” a comment supported by the B.C. Ministry of Environment.
Also, “It should be noted that no boundaries or park concepts have been considered at this time,” said Parks Canada. “As we restart discussions, our area of interest will primarily focus on the areas that were the subject of previous consideration.”
Concerns that residents will not be allowed to keep pets or livestock without permits, along with guests have to pay fees to access their properties, not be able to have their volunteer fire department, not be able to change properties in any way, and be unable to move legally owned firearms through the park are similarly unfounded.
“The community of Willowbrook would not be within the national park reserve boundary, and as such local fire departments will continue to maintain their existing responsibilities,” Parks Canada said in its emailed response. “The local fire department will not be affected, so home insurance premiums should not be affected.”
“Area residents will not have to pay a fee to access their homes or to receive guests,” Parks Canada said. “Parks Canada does not include communities within new national park reserves.”
They also dispute the claims of park opponents that property owners would lose the right to keep pets, build additions or sell their property to people other than the government.
“The Government of Canada cannot expropriate private property in order to enlarge or establish a national park or national park reserve,” said Parks Canada, citing the Canada National Parks Act Section 15(6).
“Private lands would only ever be purchased on a willing-seller/willing-buyer basis, based on independent property appraisals,” Parks Canada said. “The federal government has no jurisdiction over property rights on privately owned land adjacent to the boundaries of a national park.”
Regarding firearms, Parks Canada also said …the law governing transportation of firearms — the Firearms Act — applies throughout Canada, including in national parks.
Mr. Knodel fears losing all local control over the park lands. Parks Canada now requires a local advisory committee for new parks.
I trust that the Willowbrook residents will consider the facts more carefully as the park process moves ahead. Far from damaging property values, experience around the world is that these are increased, not decreased, by being close to any protected area.