The total direct and indirect cost of chronic disease in Canada was $93 billion/year in 2004. Most of this is preventable and it takes a huge toll on our economy.
We in Penticton bear our share of this burden through health care costs, social costs and lost productivity. This is a huge economic issue with major impact on our standard of living. The solution is not more doctors and drugs. It lies with strategies to promote healthy living.
An urban park is one of the best tools we have to promote and support healthy living: a peaceful, natural place for restorative relaxation and soft recreation, accessible by all — without charge.
Evidence for the health benefits of urban parks is strong and growing, including blood pressure control, reduced obesity, improved stress and depression scores, improved functioning of kids with ADHD, even improved immunity. Some very recent evidence show that chemicals (phytoncides) released into the air by trees, especially evergreens, are powerful enhancers of our immune systems.
At the core of this benefit is the sense of natural space. Our own Skaha Lake Park fits this description to a T. It is an urban gem. No enhancement needed.
Contrast the restorative urban park with another kind of park: the amusement park. These are usually privately owned, for profit and charge an entry fee. They have expensive built structures such as waterslides. They serve customers who can afford to pay.
A waterslide could be a lot of fun for our kids whose parents can afford it, attract some more tourists and create a few more low-paying jobs for three months of the year. But it belongs in an amusement park, not in Skaha Lake Park, where it would overwhelm the existing ambience, shatter the peaceful natural setting, and defeat the priceless health benefits this park bestows on our community. Natural parks have their own intrinsic value to community health and hence to our economy. We struggle to create urban parkland. It needs to be protected, and we need mayor and council to understand that.
So, to conclude, our public parkland belongs to all the people. We the ratepayers are owners of this land, not customers. Mayor and council, you have tried to take from us almost 20 per cent of Skaha Lake Park for commercial development by circumventing democratic process. This must stop.
Our public parkland must not be disposed of in any way without consent from the electorate. The Community Charter, with clarification in the Interpretation Act, requires it. You are breaking the law and thwarting democracy.