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Vernon gives blessing to parks structure
Greater Vernon’s parks peace plan is a done deal.
Vernon council ratified a memorandum of understanding Monday with Coldstream and the Regional District of North Okanagan that will restructure the parks service.
“This was an agreement that everyone brought the right spirit to and it’s better than what we had going in,” said Coun. Patrick Nicol, referring to years of fighting among the participants.
The new structure will see some parks remain regional in scope while others will become the responsibility of individual jurisdictions.
Vernon will hand ownership of Kal Beach and Marshall Field to the regional district while the city gets 10 regional district lots on Lakeshore Road. The city will become completely responsible for Polson Park.
Opposition came from Coun. Bob Spiers.
“Why do we have to transfer vast tracts of land?” he said, adding that ownership of parks could have remained with existing jurisdictions while contracts allowed other jurisdictions to use them.
Spiers is also concerned Vernon taxpayers will be left with upwards of $10 million in upgrades to Polson Park over 10 years.
“We’ve given up our right to go to RDNO to ask to participate.”
However, Spiers’ colleagues downplayed the transfer of land titles.
“The city is part owner of anything the regional district owns. I don’t agree that we just sold out the farm,” said Coun. Juliette Cunningham.
While there has been some suggestion that Kal Beach is valued at $20 million, Cunningham says that is only possible if the property is developed.
“I’d never want to see Kal Beach turned over for that,” she said, adding that the agreement ensures the site remains park.
Mayor Rob Sawatzky insists compromises were needed among all participants as a way of bringing the dispute to an end and fostering co-operation.
“The agreement has warts and flaws but we’re looking for something to move forward with,” he said.
With the MOU now signed, the regional district will begin drafting bylaws to formally change the structure of the parks service.
Coun. Mary-Jo O’Keefe was absent Monday.