Despite some heated opposition from a group of Okanagan Centre residents, Lake Country council is moving forward with a plan to clean-up the Okanagan Centre greenspace, a public trail that is currently littered with private property including boat-houses, canoes, tables and chairs.
At its Feb. 19 meeting, a group of residents presented council with a 122 name petition of residents who wanted a public hearing on the issue before any clean-up went ahead. But the efforts did not sway council, who collectively voted to move ahead with the clean-up and remove private property from the public park.
“This (issue) has been coming before council after council ever since (Lake Country) incorporated,” said coun. Lisa Cameron, the councilor elected to represent the Okanagan Centre ward. “It’s time for the clean-up to be completed. Absolutely there will be lots of opportunity to talk about amenities that the community and citizens of Lake Country would like to see in the public park (after the clean-up).”
The clean-up effort was back in front of council only after a motion to rescind the district’s previous motion to remove private property from the greenspace was put forward by coun. Penny Gambell at the Feb. 5 council meeting. But before the debate even began, Gambell withdrew the motion to rescind.
“I felt it was my duty to listen to my constituents but I have come to the conclusion that there is currently little support on council to rescind the motion,” she said. “I do hope that the staff will approach the clean up task with sensitivity and common sense.”
Despite the removal of her motion, several members of Okanagan Centre spoke, including David Geen, who had organized the public movement against the clean-up.
“What somebody sees as an old building that is post mature but not creating a problem, that is beauty to some people,” said Geen. “That is part of the thing that we feel is being foisted on us. This is the heritage of Okanagan Centre and you take that away when you sterilize it.”
When pushed by residents about the clean-up, district parks director Steve Schaffrick said the parks committee as well as community volunteers will be doing the clean-up and all non-public items will be removed.
“We will be removing anything that doesn’t belong on the greenspace such as derelict buildings, old chairs, any non-public property,” he said. “Some people have contacted us and said they will be removing their structures before April 20 which is the date that has been set for the beginning of the clean-up.”
In the end council voted to hand the clean-up over to district staff to move ahead with its plans which included installing several picnic tables for residents to use once the clean-up is completed.
Cameron said it was high time the greenspace became open for all residents of Lake Country and not just those that have been using it for their own purposes and storing their private property on it.
“I’d like to thank my fellow councilors for the leadership they have shown and thank the citizens of Okanagan Centre for their patience in waiting for council to finally address the Okanagan Centre greenspace public/private conflict,” said Cameron. “We can all be proud of the fact that today we have helped create a legacy for Lake Country with a truly public park for all Lake Country residents and future residents to enjoy.”