The proposed development of the Penticton waterfronts is an extremely important move with plenty of positive aspects, but a few possibly negative ones. The following is an abbreviated version of a letter to mayor and council sent June 25.
I commend council for initiating plans to make Penticton more attractive, physically and from an amenities point of view, for residents and visitors alike. The two waterfronts plus the channel are natural features critical to such a plan. In my view, they should be ‘developed’ in such a way as to improve non-vehicular access, to avoid anything that impedes views, and to encourage uses unavailable elsewhere in the city or immediate area. Especially given the small amount of waterfront, so-called ‘passive’ activities, not commercial, would seem to be the ‘best and highest’ uses.
It would be of interest to know whether the “significant public demand” in the online survey for facilities such as cafes and restaurant/pub at the Sicamous and for a boat tie-up came from the general public or business people wishing to capitalize on a plum location. I rather suspect the latter. With the numerous restaurants and cafes across Lakeshore Drive there appears no need for more, and especially on the waterfront.
I am particularly worried about any proposal that would once again reduce habitat for birds on any of our waterfronts. The lower-elevation valley is a critical Interior migration route for many species of waterfowl, shorebirds and land birds that breed here or use the valley as a corridor to breeding areas further north. Fall through late winter, too, the dam area in particular is a very important resting and feeding place for many birds. Increased human and boat traffic and facilities would destroy habitat and disturb the birds at very vulnerable times.
The birds contribute to the local economy too as local and visiting birders regularly scout the waterfronts for wintering and migrating species — then visit local businesses. Non-birders seem to appreciate the birds’ presence too, though unfortunately often by feeding them. For ecological and economic reasons, the birds should be considered in any waterfront redevelopment plan.
In my letter to council, I suggested that activities at the west end, other than benches, barbecue spots and the like, be put at the Peach, the widest, most easily accessible bit. Habitat disturbance would be minimal and it would concentrate less quiet activities. I would love to have general motorized traffic removed from Lakeshore Drive entirely, with shuttle buses available from nearby parking areas. Air quality and the views would improve and noise would be greatly reduced. Currently, the excellent food and atmosphere on the patio of a place like Salty’s are ruined by car fumes, noise and obscured views.
When I moved to Penticton area 22 years ago, a sort of Coney Island on the Okanagan was proposed for what is now Okanagan Lake Park. Residents resisted that effort to commercialize the waterfront. Let’s do so again and opt for a plan that honours the natural and human values of these treasures.