A lack of available funds in the budget may prevent the province from purchasing the 234-acre Chelsea Estate that would see Ellison Provincial Park expand.
The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce received a letter from British Columbia Environment Minister George Heyman indicating the ministry doesn’t have the budget for such an acquisition and there are competing interests B.C. Parks must consider.
“We fully understand limited budgets and competing priorities as our members — business owners and non-profits — experience the same challenges on a daily basis,” chamber president Krystin Kempton said in response the minister.
“But while there is a monetary price to acquiring the Chelsea Estate, there is a price if we do nothing, particularly as our province faces climate change and much of the Okanagan’s natural ecosystem is considered sensitive,” she said.
Kempton said the new addition to Ellison Provincial Park would further the North Okanagan’s reputation as a tourism destination as trail users, hiking and biking are becoming increasingly popular with tourists.
“The North Okanagan and the province can only benefit from the spinoff benefits of acquiring this property,” she said.
Protecting the property along Okanagan Lake will also bolster the province’s relationship with the Syilx people, the chamber said in a statement July 9.
“In his letter, the minister states that, ‘should other significant contributors to this acquisition be identified, B.C. Parks remains prepared to discuss ways in which this property could be acquired for public benefit,’” Kempton said.
Kempton’s response urges the environment minister to direct B.C. Parks to seek out potential partners in public and private foundations and government at all levels.
“Partnerships between B.C. Parks, foundations and all levels of government have made other provincial parks possible in the North Okanagan,” she said. “It is also necessary to keep communications open with the property owner.”
The Vernon Chamber has pledged to aid the government to identify possible partners and establish connections that could result in the provincial park’s expansion.
“Opportunities of a lifetime only surface occasionally and that means we must use all measures possible to bring them to reality,” Kempton said.
A petition, started by Vernon resident Mike Brown, also calls on the Ministry of Environment to purchase the property for sale at 9747 Cameron Road, adjacent to the provincial park. As of July 9, more than 12,500 people have signed the petition on change.org.