Lake Country council will have a familiar issue before it at its next council meeting, after residents brought their concerns about the proposed clean up of a three-kilometre walking trail alongside Okanagan Lake in Okanagan Centre, known as the greenspace, to last week’s council meeting.
Council had previously passed a motion to remove old boathouses, boats, chairs and other private property left on the greenspace by residents but, following a presentation by two Lake Country residents who were against the clean up, council will be debating the issue again at its next meeting.
Following the presentations Coun. Penny Gambell filed a motion to rescind council’s previous motion, a move that will bring the issue back before district councillors at its next scheduled meeting Feb. 19.
Okanagan Centre resident David Geen spoke to council and presented several letters of opposition to the plan.
“I think it was pretty unanimous of the people who responded to me that said we recognize there is something of lifestyle and essence of a community that isn’t being recognized when you go through and clean up all the tables and people’s kayaks that they use from time to time,” said Geen, following the meeting. “As a community you have the right to describe what you want in your community.”
Geen said the community was never properly consulted about the plan to remove private property from the greenspace, a trail that is public property that the district’s parks committee had wanted cleaned up.
But Geen said a clean-up will change the character of Okanagan Centre and is against a sector plan that was put together in 2006.
“We didn’t want street lights, we didn’t want extensive sidewalks,” he said. “That is part of the lifestyle which has been here for 100 years, including the use of the beach area, the so-called greenspace.
“Council suddenly decided they were going to clean up that lifestyle. We’ve never had a town meeting about the greenspace and I can’t see how council can make a decision without doing that,” Geen said.
Coun. Jamie McEwan, who sits on the parks committee, said he was surprised the issue will be back in front of council but welcomed the input from the concerned residents.
“I understand this is a big change for the area,” said McEwan. “The area has been able to function as is for quite some time and this council has brought a lot of changes. It might be rather drastic for the area but I think it would be there for the benefit and enjoyment of the entire community. This is the direction our parks and recreation committee would like to go. It’s always a matter of balancing a multitude of perspectives on any issue.”
McEwan added that with the amount of private property items strewn about the greenspace, the trail can often be mistaken for private property, especially by people who may not be familiar with Okanagan Centre.
Because Geen, as well as one other resident, were only at council to make a presentation, Lake Country council did not discuss the issue, although Gambell’s motion to rescind will bring it back to the table.
During his closing remarks though, Mayor James Baker said the council will take the public’s concerns into consideration and hinted that a public meeting on the issue could be coming.
“Before any changes were going to be made to the greenspace we were going to do a public meeting,” Baker said. “We understand the concern and we will be looking at it.”
The issue is also tied to the removal of docks in Okanagan Centre that are also in the process of being removed. The docks and the boathouses, canoes, kayaks and chairs are all located on a stretch of land that is owned by either the district or the province.
But Geen said it’s all part of the character of Okangan Centre.
“That is what Okanagan Centre is. The path ambles over rocks and around fallen trees and some places there is a building,” he said. “It doesn’t impair the use of the area, it’s part of our lifestyle. It’s charming. We just want to be left alone and not destroyed.”