Letter: Waterfront purchase another park pipe dream

I believe…that the ultimate goal is to sell the land for development but keep a sliver of the waterfront as a public boardwalk.

To the editor:

Regarding the major land purchase by the City of Kelowna for a waterfront park, it was reported: “’The city has not made a purchase of land this significant in over 40 years,’ said Mayor Colin Basran. ‘The $12 million, 2.9-acre land purchase is funded through the development cost charges program and land reserves.’”

Perhaps they have conveniently and once again forgotten that during the nine years between 1989 and 1997 (18 years ago) they purchased 11 nearly identical properties for $3.9 million, totaling 900 feet of sandy waterfront. I have 26 pages of the then-confidential documents carefully detailing the acquisition of each property and the purpose. For example, in 1992 one paragraph of the 3096 Walnut Road purchase reads:

“Property acquisitions to the north of Cedar Avenue were initiated with the express purpose of expanding this beach end as a neighbourhood lake access park. The lake access in this area is fairly sandy with a gently sloping bottom suitable for swimming. The Leisure Services Department initially supported expansion of the Cedar Avenue beach end to the north for development of a neighbourhood lake access park. The Leisure Services Department also supports extension of this park down to Meikle Avenue beach access because of the ability to include the 66 foot road right-of-way and the large portion of Crown foreshore in the park development at no cost to the City. Staff’s recommendation is to continue renting the existing residences until all properties have been acquired and then to develop the entire area as a neighbourhood beach front park similar to Kinsmen and Strathcona parks.”

The area being referred to is at the foot of Cedar Avenue in the heart of the growing Pandosy Village. Many of you will recall the more recent public initiative to get the city to recognize what this purchase was for after the city attempted to have it sold for development. They have since designated the land for some loose form of “eventual” park use, but the current 2030 financial plan does not allocate any money to develop the beach and park until 2027; 30 years from when the land assembly was finished. Even 2027 is arbitrary because who knows what council 12 years from now will want.

Surely, a rapidly growing and affluent city could have afforded the little it would have taken to make the Cedar Avenue waterfront accessible to the public. After all, the city even admits that in its surveys increased public access to the waterfront remains among the highest priorities.

Rather, I believe that this latest and very expensive land purchase will eventually be treated similarly to Cedar Avenue in that the ultimate goal is to sell the land for development but keep a sliver of the waterfront as a public boardwalk. As far as an actual park, we are likely again being sold a pipe dream.

Michael Neill, Kelowna