Parks and recreation is a disaster. The mayor of Coldstream favours development over parkland.
And Barry Beardsell was just getting warmed up.
The former Vernon councillor slammed Greater Vernon Advisory Committee directors during a 13-minute presentation Thursday.
“I’m here on behalf of Greater Vernon taxpayers who are concerned about management of parks and recreation, and the accountability related thereto,” said Beardsell, who claims the parks and recreation function has been “a total disaster” since former Regional District of North Okanagan administrator Barry Gagnon left in 2005.
Beardsell started his presentation with concerns about the land behind the regional district office (which is where GVAC meetings are held), saying “a million dollar asset has been turned into a swamp.”
Beardsell said the expectation for the land was for a school, soccer fields, tennis courts and playgrounds.
“Not once did Greater Vernon parks directors sanction or approve the destruction of the property,” said Beardsell. “The loss to Greater Vernon taxpayers is enormous.”
Beardsell accused Coldstream Mayor Jim Garlick and “possibly the rest of Coldstream council” as being more interested in development than anything else, and called for an independent review for issues related to titles on property, unfulfilled developer commitments and compensation for future roadways and existing damages.
The former councillor stated he had “a lot of documentation” to back up his accusations, which troubled Garlick.
“The land (behind RDNO) was actually traded with the view to make it a water treatment facility, not a park and we can provide that information,” said Garlick. “We have been working with volunteer groups on that land to enhance it as a wetlands area because the ministry of environment says it needs to be done.”
Garlick said development for that land has existed in Coldstream for years, and the actual development that took place next door to the RDNO office was done before 2005.
“There’s a lot of misinformation that muddies the water moving forward,” said Garlick. “I have these concerns when comments made in public become truths someway.”
Beardsell also blasted directors for no accountability on the “disastrous events” of the Vernon Rec Centre swimming pool, not having a parks and recreation manager in place to run a $15-million operation, going to referendum on a sports facility at Okanagan College, no review on operations at the Wesbild Centre, which he said is utilized for “little more than hockey,” no replacement plans for the Vernon Civic Arena and no plans for the Vernon Public Art Gallery and Greater Vernon Museum.
Administrator Trafford Hall said Beardsell or any member of the public can stand before directors and say anything they want.
“It doesn’t have to be substantiated,” said Hall. “Mr. Beardsell presented a long list of grievances. Some are substantiated, some are not, some are unfair and some I’m taking into consideration.”