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Council suggests scaled back City Park visitor centre

A Tourism Kelowna visitor centre is still part of the plan for future upgrades to City Park, but it will likely be much smaller than what was initially proposed.

Kelowna City Council received information regarding the public feedback to the Draft City Park Concept Plan during its meeting Monday.

After receiving 69 letters—most of which opposed a proposed 16,000-square-foot tourism facility—along with phone calls, surveys and online comments, many councillors agreed the public has spoken.

Even as of noon Monday the city continued to get feedback—a faxed petition with 27 signatures opposing a visitor centre in City Park was received prior to the council meeting.

Coun. Robert Hobson said it likely "wouldn't work" to move forward with the type of facility that was originally envisioned. He suggested a "pedestrian-oriented" visitor centre would be more appropriate than a destination tourist centre, adding a new highway location might work better for rubber tire visitors.

Coun. Andre Blanleil agreed that the building should be smaller; however, he indicated Tourism Kelowna needs a presence of some sort in City Park.

"I don't support no building in the park—I believe that's the right location for it," said Blanleil.

City staff were asked to begin work on the concept plan for City Park in 2012.

From March 14 to April 25, 2,700 people visited an online engagement tool—built to communicate ideas regarding upgrades to the park.

"That's the biggest engagement we've ever had of our citizens," said Coun. Luke Stack.

Stack said he was happy with the response; however, was disappointed that many of the positive features of the Draft City Park Concept Plan—such as increased safety and improved pedestrian, cyclist and vehicle traffic flow—were lost among the negative focus on the visitor centre.

Mayor Walter Gray said he's happy the public consultation took place so early in the process.

"The best way to get feedback is to throw an idea on the table," said Gray.

Council directed staff to work with Tourism Kelowna to discuss ways to reduce the size of the building that would house the visitor centre.

wpaterson@kelownacapnews.com

Twitter: @PatersonWade

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