The Mayor of Penticton likes to remind us that he and our councillors were elected on a platform of change, as if this entirely justifies council’s unwavering determination to proceed with commercialization of Skaha Park without seeking approval of the electorate.
Pursuing a change agenda does not give council carté blanche to bulldozer ahead with anything they choose to do without permission of the electorate.
This raises the question: When do you need permission for change? Answer: When you re-purpose what it is you’re changing. Using my home as an example, if I wanted to turn it into a B&B, that would be re-purposing and I’d need to get my partner’s permission first (or risk a divorce!).
A Google search for the meaning of re-purpose turned up this delightful Wiktionary entry: “To alter to make more suited for a different purpose: The church was re-purposed as a nightclub by lighting changes and removing the pews, but it never opened.” What a stunningly appropriate analogy this example is for our Skaha Park fiasco. For, indeed, this natural open park is a kind of sanctuary — a respite from stress and a place of restoration.
No matter how hard the mayor tries to claim otherwise, the Trio waterpark agreement re-purposes Skaha Park by converting it from a restful natural space to an amusement park — once done there will be no turning back. The waterpark will occupy just under 20 per cent of the green space, but it will create a Coney Island ambience that changes the peaceful character of the entire park.
Our public is sending a loud and clear message to mayor and council: “don’t commercialize natural parks without our permission.” This is far more than a disagreement on park amenities, such as a concession. It’s about public ownership of public space, and it’s about democratic process. Our council should have recognized their obligation to seek permission long before the lease agreements were presented to council last June. And the mayor’s stubborn refusal to listen to resounding public rejection of this plan and to reconsider the decision while he still could is why this has changed from a protest into a battle.