Letter: Will latest public park go to private interests again?

Kelowna has purchased 2.9 acres of lake-front for a public beach…will dog owners be stonewalled again?

To the editor:

The news this week that Kelowna has purchased 2.9 acres of lake-front for a public beach may one day be good news for Kelowna’s residents. If a public beach is indeed developed there, then the $12 million price paid to acquire the properties will have been well spent.

But I am too skeptical to rejoice, because the city has owned 13 lake-front properties along Abbott and Walnut streets at the foot of Cedar Avenue for many years. These properties, which the city calls South Pandosy Waterfront Park, were also purchased for parkland, but instead of being developed into a 900-foot linear park, for all to enjoy, the city leased four of them (240 feet of lakeshore) to the Kelowna Paddle Centre in 2013. Then instead of demolishing the old rental houses on the remaining properties, the city renovated them, thereby signalling a park was not in the offing.

A faint hope for the park remains—the Kelowna 2030 Plan, released last week, does show that $2 million is allocated for South Pandosy Waterfront Park in 2027.

Perhaps the 2.9 acres property will become a park without the use of polls, surveys, open houses, public hearings and signs telling local residents “It’s Your Neighbourhood.” I hope so.

The public’s participation in the City’s input-seeking methods did not materialize into a public park for Cedar Avenue. However, the Kelowna Paddle Centre was able to obtain council’s unanimous approval to lease four of the properties for a private-pay members club. It’s public, as long as you can pay the annual fee.

Meanwhile, residents have to wait until 2027 for the remaining nine properties to be developed into a public park. By then, will anyone remember that a park was meant to be there?

There is a relatively frugal way to use three more of the South Pandosy Waterfront Park properties: A dog beach along Abbott Street between Cedar Avenue and the Paddle Centre. It would end the parks department’s decade-long search for an urban dog beach and save the City $7,500 for a dog survey next year.

Where paddlers’ requests were welcomed unanimously by council, dog owners have been stonewalled for years. Quality fencing, similar to the black-coated chain-link on Gordon by the Mission Sports Fields, would ensure that the park’s appearance is in keeping with the neighbourhood.

The City spent $25,000 in tax dollars to prepare the paddlers’ site.  The same amount can be found to prepare the dog park. No survey was held about the paddlers’ claim. But, where there is a will, there is a way, as was demonstrated by the generosity to paddlers.

Helen Schiele, Kelowna