Letter: In support of the Kelowna visitor centre

We want such an area to draw people in, give them a reason to stay, create a natural environment for enjoyment

To the editor:

There seems to be many of the opinion that the proposed Visitor Centre would devalue the downtown foreshore. I have a different opinion.

First of all, I do agree that this is a critical area of our community. But there is more to creating an attractive public space than just worrying about whether the view of the lake is blocked.

We want such an area to draw people in, give them a reason to stay, create a natural environment for enjoyment and provide an interaction zone.

The Project for Public Space (www.pps.org) lists four qualities for successful public spaces: “They are accessible; people are engaged in activities there; the space is comfortable and has a good image; and finally, it is a sociable place, one where people meet each other and take people when they come to visit.”

In all fairness to our current city council, in this instance I believe they are trying to create a space that has those qualities.

The vision of the foreshore plan is to create a contiguous foreshore zone that includes both parkland and activated spaces that offer the four qualities of a successful public space.

This creates the balance required to provide both areas of inter-activity and areas for natural enjoyment.

If you look at the satellite view of Kelowna’s downtown foreshore you see how this vision is coming together, with the public green spaces of City Park and Waterfront Park anchored in the middle with the more active hubs of the Delta, Yacht Club and Stuart Park.

The missing link in all this is the proposed site currently a parking lot and the rather dilapidated adjacent area of Kerry Park and the Sails.

Any urban planner will tell you this is the perfect location for an activated public space to link other active core areas and create the contiguous zone envisioned by city planners. It also provides a much-needed catalyst for the rejuvenation of Kerry Park and the Sails.

So then the question becomes, is a Visitor’s Centre the proper choice for this activated space?

If you do your homework and move your understanding of Okanagan tourism beyond that of the 1980’s, you’ll discover that the proposed approach and Visitor Centre footprint is based on what is working successfully in other key destinations around the world, including the Tourism Vancouver Visitor Centre and the Tourism Victoria Visitor Centre, both of which are located you guessed it on the waterfront.

The goal of a successful foreshore plan is not to make sure that the view of the lake is unobstructed from every possible angle, including people parking on Queensway or driving around a traffic circle.

The goal is to plan for a successful urban space for years to come, sustainably integrating both commercial and public spaces.

Let’s give Mayor Basran and his council some credit for not succumbing to the NIMBY attitudes that tend to prevail here.

Gord Hotchkiss, Kelowna

Kelowna Capital News