Open letter to Blair Lekstrom, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure:
Re: Westside Road Interchange land exchange.
Much is being said about the land exchange agreement negotiated between the provincial government and the Westbank First Nations.
In all of this, little attention is being paid to the fact that a substantial portion of the Rose Valley Reservoir Regional Park is included in this land exchange. The only aspect that is being addressed in this regard is the protection of the community water supply.
However, the bigger issue that gets little attention is the fact that, apparently, a large part of a regional park can be removed from the park without any consultation or input from local governments.
This is a very slippery slope as Judie Steeves pointed out in her article: When Is A Park Not A Park?” in the Kelowna Capital News of Aug. 5.
Canada and the Province of B.C. pride themselves in the fact that we have an extensive park system. Efforts continue by all levels of government to add to our parks, but this is becoming more and more difficult as there are many other groups who have interests in those lands.
To give some examples: the District of West Kelowna recently agreed to purchase a property on Pritchard Drive for approximately $1.5 million to add to an existing park. Also, negotiations and discussions have been going on for over 10 years between the governments of Canada and British Columbia to establish a National Park Reserve in the South Okanagan Lower Similkameen.
It goes against all logic to now remove land from a regional park for a land exchange. Surely an agreement could have been negotiated with the WFN without including a portion of this park. As Ms. Steeves pointed out, if this can be done in Rose Valley then which park is next?
Many organizations negotiate land use permits and management agreements with the provincial government to preserve nature or for activities that benefit the public. It now looks like these agreements might also not be as secure as once thought. This is a very troubling situation.
I would like to urge the provincial government to exclude land in the Rose Valley Regional Park from the land exchange agreement with the WFN.