‘City’s open spaces are under assault’

To the editor:

To the editor:

At its Tuesday, Jan. 18, meeting, the City of Kelowna Advisory Planning Commission expressed reservations about approving a rezoning application that would establish the first part of a Cedar Avenue waterfront linear park.

The proposed park proposes, as one of its major themes, the restoration of lakefront to its natural state.

The majority of members of the committee and the majority of the public speakers were concerned that the proposed park should have a more traditional style, with emphasis on beach, grass, open space and trees. There was a feeling that sometimes the city needed to make grand gestures to establish parkland and that this area required a grand gesture from city council.

Someone pointed out that the purchase of the downtown city park in the 1920s had been a grand gesture back then and was an example of the importance of foresight when establishing parks.

The idea of a traditional park in the South Pandosy area does, of course, have its attractions, but city staff have pointed out the high coliform content in the lake in this area would make it an unpopular swimming beach. If it were to become a swimming beach, I suspect that the space needed for a parking lot, public toilets and change room facilities would use up over half the extra parkland that those favouring a traditional park want to see added to the current rezoning proposal.

My problem with the idea of expanding the Cedar Avenue linear park proposal into a bigger park is that the city’s open spaces are under assault on all fronts, not just along the lakeshore. Within the city and even outside the city through its participation in our regional parks program, the city has to make crucial decisions every year to help save vanishing spaces. Of particular concern to me is the steady loss of natural grassland and natural ponderosa pine forest.

The public needs to be aware that the current provincial government policy is to sell parcels of Crown land throughout the Central Okanagan to private interests and to commercial development.

The city has in the past played an active role in protecting habitat and open spaces within its own boundaries and, as a partner in the regional parks program, it has also played a very active role in protecting habitat and open space in the entire Central Okanagan and I can only hope this policy will continue in the future. When we worry too exclusively about the importance of one park, we draw attention away from the need to put scarce resources into promoting the acquisition of other parks that are equally important.

I attended the Jan. 18 meeting and made the case for the linear park. The kind of park that I think the city deserves at the bottom of Cedar Avenue is not a traditional park, nor does it require that all of the city owned land be converted to park. At least some of this land can be used for other purposes. I think the prime issue here is the proper protection of natural habitat along the lakeshore and up Fascieux Creek. This needs a long-term strategy and requires, along with the development of a linear park for public use, the setting aside of protected lakeshore and creek land.

In the immediate future, it requires the redevelopment for park use of a portion of the land the city already owns and the restoration of lakefront to its natural state.

Later, it will require the purchase of key plots of land nearby and subsequent restoration activities to help make Fascieux Creek a more natural area able to better support traditional plants and wildlife. My fear is that creating adjacent to Fascieux Creek a larger park that emphasizes traditional park values will use up city land assets that the city could sell off.

Some of the proceeds, as city staff suggested at the meeting, could be used in the second phase of the proposed Cedar Avenue linear park, a portion of the proposed park that emphasizes both stream and lakeshore habitat. The money could be put toward land acquisition and restoration efforts that are necessary to get riparian areas back to a natural state. That would show true foresight.

In short, I feel the complexities of the issue, especially the environmental ones, did not receive enough attention at the meeting and I urge those in the public who feel as I do to step up and take an active part in the debate.

Ian Pooley,

Kelowna

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