To the editor:
What is our premiere nature park really for?
Precedent says that the Knox Mountain Hill Climb is a great tradition that is to be upheld, while leaders tout the event’s contribution to the local economy and tourism.
But are either of these justification for allowing such an incompatible use of our premiere nature park?
I think that many residents would say no. I sure do, I live at the base of the park, visit it regularly to walk or bike and have for years contributed to the improvement of the park’s trail network as well as the development of the park management plan. Visit this annual event just once and you will see its impact on the park.
I’ll start with the fact that I, as a local resident can’t even use the park on the first major long weekend of the summer. I can’t even get up the road by foot or bike, I’d likely have to pay to get in.
I can’t get up to friend’s homes along adjacent Royal View Drive for a summer barbecue. I mean, really? Don’t I help pay for this park? Isn’t it for my enjoyment or is it simply for use by visitors with their loud, polluting race cars?
At this year’s race a car careened off the ‘course’ into a very old, very large tree. Thankfully the driver and nearby spectators were all safe but that tree? Well it may not survive the damage caused by the Mustang that hit it at nearly 100 km/h.
But who cares right? It’s just a tree. One of many in the park.
But not really. You see, like all areas, Knox has been hit hard by the pine beetle infestation so every remaining tree counts and has value. To me anyway.
And as for all those spectators, do you think they walked up the road to access the best spot to take in a possible high speed wreak? Maybe they all followed the formal trails and walked up obeying the now plentiful signs advising everyone to stay on trails and respect the fragile ecosystem. Some may have, but not too many. They rather trampled up and down the hill sides contributing to the out of control problem of rogue pathways, erosion and ecosystem damage.
But who cares, right? They all headed downtown after for dinner and drinks or back to their hotel rooms adding to the local economy. That’s what’s important right? The damage they left behind will just be blamed on hikers and bikers who don’t stay on trails anyway and the City’s Parks Department will be left to clean up the mess and repair the damage (with our money).
You can have all the economic benefits afforded by attracting visitors to the region without the destruction and annoyance.
Cycling, hiking, walking and other healthy, sustainable activities continue to rise in popularity and the regions that cater to these are reaping the benefits and respect afforded by their focus.
Kelowna and other parts of our region attract great events focused on these activities, we always have. There’s precedent in that as well.
Try to picture specific places within our region 40, 50 years down the road. Places like Knox Mountain Park that you may take for granted or not even think much about today. Do you envision them holding their place as the gems they are today with their natural beauty, wildlife and well managed public access or do you see them degraded, mismanaged and used up by past generations?
Car racing doesn’t belong in our premiere nature park. It’s just incompatible. It’s not wrong to do, but there are sure better places to do it.
Precendent is a powerful thing but there comes a time when things have to change.
Michael D. Kittmer,