Kelowna's concept plan for the future of City Park.

Concept plan for future of Kelowna’s city park win praise

Outgoing members of Kelowna city council say they like the ideas in the concept plan but realize they will take years to materialize.

A concept plan showing what Kelowna’s City Park could look like in 10 years is being hailed by the outgoing city council as a positive step forward for the park.

“I’ve always felt there should be a master-plan for CityPark,” said veteran Coun. Robert Hobson, who is not running for re-election after 26 years on council.

Hobson, born and raised in Kelowna, said his earliest memories of the park were learning to swim off Cold Sands Beach. And while he agreed there have been many changes to the park over the years, the downtown, lakefront park retains a special place in the hearts of Kelowna residents.

The city had planned to introduce its new concepts for the park earlier in the year but when public sentiment against a proposal to build a tourist information centre in the park near the foot of Bernard Avenue prompted exclusion of that building from the park, the plan was reworked and taken back to the public for input. The tourist building in now slated for the of Queensway.

Planner Pat McCormick said while work on the plan has taken nearly two years to complete, it appears the public likes what they see, according to exit survey at open houses held earlier this summer.

The plan calls for more pathways through the the park, improvements to the Jubilee Bowl, better signage, a grouping of activity amenities, an improved main entrance on Abbott Street at the foot of Leon Avenue, an improvement to the park at the corner at Highway 97 and Abbott, the keeping of the many mature trees in the park, a separation of bicycle and pedestrian walkways, a boardwalk, aquatic facilities likely similar to the CN Wharf in West Kelowna’s Gellatly Bay, new basketball courts and better lighting.

The plan also calls for the lawn bowling club to stay where it is, along with keeping the Cenotaph, the Veendam Gardens in the park and improving the existing Rose Garden.

McCormick stressed the plan is still conceptual as there is no money currently in the city budget to make the proposed improvements and the city will have to look at partnerships and grants to help pay for the work over several years.

Still, the mayor and councillors liked what they heard, with one, Coun. Gail Given, saying she felt it would be hard for somebody not to like the plan.

The popular 31-acre park, which is nearly as old as the city itself, has often been referred to as Kelowna’s park jewel. But in recent years, some illegal activity has taken place in the park—mainly at night— and the city hopes the improvements will help drive that element out of the park.

In total, the concept plan has 20 recommendations. It is available to the public on the city’s website (kelowna.ca).

While the report listing the recommended improvements was unanimously accepted by council, before any of work is done, detailed designs would have to be drawn up and more, specific public input gathered.