A unique, geological landmark that towers over Kelowna’s eastern boundary has been turned into a new regional park.
Black Mountain/Sntsk‘il’ntən Regional Park was officially unveiled last Friday at a ceremony attended by Regional District for Central Okanagan board chair Robert Hobson, Westbank First Nation Chief Robert Louie and B.C. Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Steve Thpmspn.
The creation of the 510-hectare regional park was made possible by $7-million in funding from the Regional Parks Legacy and Park Land Reserve funds, a $2.3-million donation through the federal government Ecological Gift Program and a co-tenure/management agreement between the regional district and Westbank First Nation for a License of Occupation on 121.5 hectares of Crown land, with a sponsorship value of $1,024,350.
This 31st regional park includes the purchase of 259-hectares of private land; the donation of 129.5-hectares of land through the Ecological Gifts Program and the joint Crown land tenure with Westbank First Nation.
The new park will be co-managed by the WFN and regional district.
“The unique geological formation of Black Mountain is often the first thing many people see when they arrive by road or by air,” said Hobson. “It offers spectacular views, but more importantly, preserves and protects a critically valuable dry grassland ecosystem, that’s under-represented and increasingly threatened and disappearing from the Okanagan valley landscape.
“This area supports a rich and diverse wildlife population, of which many species are endangered or threatened.”
Hobson said he was pleased that the WFN has partnered with the regional district in the tenure and management of important Crown land parcels.
“They are are a key part of the new regional park. As well, I thank the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations for approving our tenure agreement and seeing the value in the creation of Black Mountain/ Sntsk‘il’ntən Regional Park.”
The inclusion of the syilx/Okanagan word Sntsk‘il’nətn (sinch-keel-en-tin) in the Black Mountain park name is fitting as it translates to “the place where arrowheads/flint rock is found.”
The property has additional First Nations cultural significance as there is quite an array of plants and medicines found in the area.
“Anytime an area within our traditional territory is protected, we are pleased,” said WFN Chief Robert Louie.
“Lythics found in the area demonstrate it was a significant gathering place for our ancestors to make the necessary survival tools and, we can assume, it was a vantage point from which the valley below could be scoped out for wildlife and intruders.”
“The provision of the Crown land grant to this new regional park is just one example of how Crown land can be used for the greater good of the community,” added Thomson, MLA for Kelowna-Mission. “It is also wonderful that the regional district and Westbank First Nation are able to partner on managing this park for the benefit of residents and tourists.”
The new park will remain closed to the public while a management plan is created and trails and signage are developed to ensure education and awareness and the protection of the sensitive grassland environment.
In 2008, the regional district board unanimously agreed to establish a special tax requisition over five years to build the Parks Legacy Fund in order to leverage the purchase and protection of important properties for the Regional Park system.
Since that time, along with funding from the Park Land Reserve Fund, $22.1-million in property purchases have been made.
Along with land donations and Crown tenure agreements valued at $11.3-million, almost 900 additional hectares (2,200-acres) of land has been added to the regional park system worth over $33.4-million.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Central Okanagan Regional Park system. Since it began in the fall of 1974 and with the purchase of the almost four-hectare Kaloya Regional Park in Lake Country in early 1975, it has grown to protect more than 1,900 hectares of land in 31 regional parks.