Hundreds of area residents have signed a petition asking the Central Okanagan regional district to rescind eviction notices distributed to the last of the live-in park caretakers.
“With nearly 500 signatures on the petition (plus another 36 on a paper form) after just one week, I am planning to take the petition to the Regional District Offices in the next couple of days along with a request to make a presentation to the board,” said Nancy Holmes, on the change.org site, asking for more signatures.
“Thanks everyone for your amazing, moving, and important comments. These too will be forwarded and submitted to the RDCO Board.”
Holmes started the petition because of the fundamental believe that the Central Okanagan has clean, safe and beautiful regional parks because of the 24/7 oversight and monitoring of live-in contractors.
“As neighbours and park users, we know that on-site caretakers help keep crime down and help keep the parks safe,” Holmes wrote.
“We also believe that there is invaluable cultural value in having long-term, living relationships at the heart of our parks. There is a wide gap between what the RDCO thinks the security contractors provide and what the community thinks they provide.”
Live-in care at Woodhaven, Reiswig, Kopje, Bertram Creek, Mission Creek, Scenic Canyon and Gellatly Heritage were 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 went on to say that incidents of vandalism is 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.
“We are going to look at what we will do with those buildings, and the potential uses for them,” Smith said.
“They might provide additional opportunities for interpretation centres or staff work… will determine how they will be utilized once contractors move out.
Vancouver has been going about a similar process with park caretakers, choosing to empty the spaces through attrition rather than eviction notices.
That city has 56 field houses, built as early as 1920 and as recently as 2010. As of two years ago, according to a Canadian Press story 33 were still occupied by caretakers, while 15 have been converted into artists’ studios and six are used by sports groups, according to Vancouver Parks.
Whether the petition will go before the regional district board, which didn’t make the decision, remains to be seen.
No decision has been made with regard to approving a delegation as of yet.