West Kelowna playground proposal put on hold

Vineyard Park playground opposed by local empty nester and retiree residents.

A West Kelowna councillor’s attempt to see a promise he made during the last municipal election campaign come to fruition was rejected by his fellow councillors.

Coun. Rick de Jong was pushing for a playground to be built on what has been a 1.2 hectare greenbelt area called Vineyard Park, which borders on Vineyard Drive and Ridge Boulevard in the South Mt. Boucherie residential area.

While knocking on doors in the area during his campaign, de Jong said the feedback he received was the need for a playground to be built on the site, which he promised to follow through on.

A resolution before council on Tuesday was to approve the additional $50,000 expenditure for the playground addition to the park, in addition to $172,000 in other improvements planned to upgrade the park’s natural state, which has been paid for by Mission Hill Family Estate Winery as part of its 2009 area development application.

The additional playground funds would have come from two sources—capital reserves ($23,000) and playground equipment reserve ($27,000).

But de Jong encountered resistance from a group of area residents opposed to the project.

Susan Schultz, speaking on behalf of the group opposed to the proposal, said the site was ill-suited for a playground, advocating instead that it be kept in its natural state.

Schultz said most of the area residents are empty nesters or retirees, suggesting there is a lack of nearby resident children who would benefit from the playground, and stated there is inadequate space for parking.

She also cited it bordering on a busy traffic thoroughfare, where speeding seems to be the rule rather than the exception, as posing a potential risk for children using the playground.

“This area in its natural state has become a welcome break from the asphalt and concrete that surrounds us and we would like to see it maintained in its natural state,” Schultz said.

Coun. Bryden Winsby said he questioned the demographics of the area, citing Schultz’s claim that most of the immediate area residents are retired.

“I drive around that area quite a bit and I don’t see very many kids outside when I’m there,” he noted.

Mayor Doug Findlater said if there is opposition to the playground at this time, there is no need for the city to push the idea as part of the park upgrade plan.

“I like the idea of putting our stamp on there a bit so people don’t take the area as a place to park their cars or RVs, but I don’t see any harm in delaying the playground to some future date,” he said.

“If there are others who would welcome a playground in their neighbourhood, let’s go there.”

Coun. Rusty Ensign suggested the city do a door-to-door survey of local residents to get an accurate assessment of the population demographics.

There was an online survey and open house forum on the park improvements, both which drew a response of 78 people.

While council defeated the proposal, there will continue to be a provision for a playground to be added as part of the park upgrade at a later date.