What will become of Gardom Lake Park depends on the outcome of discussions between the province, Columbia Shuswap Regional District and the committee that manages the park.
For 25 years, members of the Gardom Lake Community Park Society have maintained and improved the waterfront park on a shoestring budget and thousands of volunteer hours.
“We were running the park as a society before we got our first licence; it was a type C (provincial) park and when the Liberals took over, they dumped all the ones that wouldn’t make money,” says committee rep Fred McAllister.
He says the society requested another 10-year licence but was granted instead a two-year licence of occupation in 2017.
The society has since been informally advised by phone that no further licence will be issued, he says.
“The government department that is our landlord has indicated that it does not intend to renew the licence of occupation beyond June of 2019,” he says in a written submission to the Observer. “Should this happen, the land could revert to other uses and it is possible it would no longer be a park at all.”
But, in a Nov. 5 email, the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) maintains no decisions have been made beyond the current licence.
“It was renewed for only two years to allow time for further discussions and vision of the land use to occur between the current licence holder, the regional district and the ministry, as there are increasing demands for increased public access to the lake,” reads the email. “Provincial staff continue to be receptive to any initiation by the tenure holder and/or local government of discussion about enhanced public access and the future of the site. Tenure replacement information is generally provided six months prior to tenure term expiry.”
McAllister notes that, even if the Crown land continues as a park, the local committee might lose much of the control it has in regard to policies and improvements.
Describing the park as a waterfront gem with two islands and a sandy beach, McAllister says over the years, the society has installed many amenities, including wheelchair access to the waterfront.
McAllister, who also sits on the Area D Parks Commission, says the nine-member Gardom Lake Park Society board believes that if the society will no longer be able to run the park, they would prefer the regional district take over operation.
But McAllister says the board doesn’t want to make that decision without support from area residents, input they can provide at a meeting at Deep Creek Hall on Nov. 22. If residents are in favour, the society will then provide the regional district with a resolution to that effect.
Darcy Mooney, CSRD’s manager of operations management, says the regional district has been trying to advocate for the society.
“We’re just as much in the dark as they are about what they (FLNRORD) plan to do with the park,” he says, pointing out the society has been maintaining the park on $10,000 a year provided through Area D director Rene Talbot’s grant-in-aid fund.
Well-acquainted with the issue, Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo says he supports the committee and the work they have done over the past 25 years.
He says his take on it is that the ministry would like CSRD to take over the park, something the regional district was not interested in doing about six months ago.
“I would assume their hesitancy has to do with a lack of funding,” says Kyllo of the regional district’s contention it will cost $50,000 to bring the park up to their standard, when the committee is operating on $10,000 and many volunteer hours.
Mooney, meanwhile, says if there’s “broad and sufficient support,” and the society submits a written resolution, the CSRD can consider their proposal.
However, he notes, before a request could go to the province, a review and cost estimates would have to be undertaken in order to add the costs to the tax roll. And the CSRD board would have to give its approval.
The ministry, meanwhile, would give a CSRD request for a licence consideration according to a process that includes several factors, including economic, environmental and social needs and opportunities and benefit to the public
“Provincial staff will consider all options for the site,” reads the Nov 5 email. “However, it’s recognized that enhanced public access to Gardom Lake is important for the public and stakeholders.”
Meanwhile, McAllister says permanent residents in an area bounded by Barney Road in the south, north on Deep Creek Road to Highway 97B, left to Haddow Road, over to Springbend and down to Hwy. 97A across from the Baird Brothers Pit, connecting over the mountain back to Barney Road are eligible to vote. That includes roads off Gardom Lake, and Mallory Road.
The meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 22 at Deep Creek Hall at the corner of Schoolhouse and Deep Creek roads.