Letter: Precious parks need 24-hour caretaking

Commissionaires closing gates will not prevent fires, off road vehicles, rowdy parties, drug use, unauthorized camping.

To the editor:

The Central Okanagan Regional District board’s decision to remove the caretakers from a number of regional parks is an astoundingly short-sighted decision — the rationale of “standardizing after hours security” makes little sense, given the history, location of the parks, and the enormously valuable community asset that is being left unattended.

I had the privilege of working with regional district administrator Al Harrison during the time I was chair of the regional district board. Most of the parks in question were acquired because of the quiet determination of Al and the respect in which he was held, as he worked with the various individuals and communities to ensure valuable parcels of land became regional parks and not development sites.

Some of those parks were heritage sites and as such, came with some of the early buildings still intact, or at least workable they were an asset, not a liability as they provided space for onsite caretakers, which were essential for the security of these sometimes out-of-the-way sites.

The wisdom of having the caretakers soon became evident as park use increased and programming could be planned for these areas that were not only secure, but safe and inviting, with a person onsite who could assist when needed, provide information, and in many regards, be a welcoming host.

I suspect few of us can imagine the viciousness of the senseless vandalism that is so frequent in our parks — fires, off road vehicles, rowdy parties, drug use, unauthorized camping are only a few. Commissionaires closing gates will not prevent that.

Both those who intend to do harm, and those who want to enjoy the park, know that the onsite caretakers makes an enormous difference to both of them.

The original decision to have caretakers was made for a very good reason. Our parks are enormous community assets and it is essential we care for and protect them. Caretakers have successfully done that for many years, and we need them, even more so in this fast-changing community, to continue to do so.

Sharron J. Simpson, Kelowna

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