A community effort to keep live-in contractors at local parks is moving forward, despite a continued shortage of feedback from the Central Okanagan Regional District.
On the petition to keep the regional district from going through with evicting live-in caretakers from seven local parks, Nancy Holmes explains that despite a mounting number of signatures on the petition and multiple attempts to make a presentation, she’s not had an opportunity to bring community concerns to the regional district board.
“We have complained about the gap between our view of what the caretakers do and what the RDCO says they do and this had not been addressed even though a group of caretakers has sent the board and CAO a list of all their contracted duties,” she said.
Holmes pointed out that caretakers perform 10 to 12 duties, as per their contracts, and only one of which is opening and closing the park gates.
“Many of us continue to question whether the replacement of the contractors with commissionaires and with volunteers is adequate to cover these 10 to 12 duties,” she said.
“It seems to be time for a community-led conversation since the official channels appear to be closed,” said Holmes.
The community is invited for conversation, tea and, if they’re interested, to make some art on Sunday, Oct. 23 any time between 1 and 4 p.m. at the Woodhaven Eco Culture Centre, 969 Raymer Road.
“We will celebrate the social and cultural values of people in parks with a family-friendly, enjoyable event led by three local artists,” Holmes said.
Among those attending the event are Tania Willard, from the Secwepemc First Nation, who has worked with the Vancouver Parks board, has just won this year’s Vancouver Book Prize. Willard is one of five curators for the nationwide arts in the national parks initiative, ArtTracks150. Chelsea Robinson, a Kelowna artist who gathers community around food and conversation to further cultural exchange will be there as well as Asia Jong, an art history student who won a UBCO research award last summer to explore cultural heritage in her community.
Live-in contractors at Woodhaven, Reiswig, Kopje, Bertram Creek, Mission Creek, Scenic Canyon and Gellatly Heritage have been asked to move out as of Dec. 1.
“We made an operational decision to standardize our after-hours security program for seven parks, bringing it inline with what we’re currently providing in ten of our other regional parks,” said Bruce Smith, spokesperson for the Central Okanagan Regional District, noting that the regional district refers to those residents as “ons site security” due to the nature of the contracts they have with the regional district.
“Starting Dec. 1, the commissionaires will be providing security…Based on our experience the security that’s currently in place for the majority of our parks has been quite effective and we imagine it will be effective for the remaining seven.”
Smith said incidents of vandalism are consistent among all the parks, with or without live-in security.
“Having somebody there is no guarantee nothing will happen,” he said. “We have many other parks where we have no caretakers and there’s no real difference that we’ve noticed.”
Only 17 of 30 parks in the regional district have contracted security and the 13 without any oversight rely on the eyes and ears of neighbours.
“We have been really lucky for the eyes and ears of our neighbours because it is all of our property we are trying to steward and protect,” he said.
Smith couldn’t speak to what would happen with the buildings those caretakers called home once the change occurred.