The Okanagan Mission Senior Centre Society celebrated 50 years of memories and fun last Saturday at their beloved centre on Hobson Road.
Cake was cut, stories swapped, art was displayed and history was relived through old photo albums during the party that drew people of all ages to celebrate the society’s 50 years in the building they’ve called home since 1973.
Cake was cut and served in celebration of the Okanagan Mission Senior Centre Society’s 50th anniversary on Saturday, July 27, 2019. (Caitlin Clow – Kelowna Capital News)
But underlying the buzz of the celebration and music by country artist Ben Klick was uncertainty, as the future of the Okanagan Mission Activity Centre remains unknown.
The centre is a special place for more than 300 senior members, said president Grace Egeland.
But it’s possible the centre, otherwise known as Dawe’s House, could be demolished to enlarge the park space at Sarsons Beach and increase the parking lot size.
City of Kelowna parks and building planning manager Robert Parlane said the demolition slated for 2020 is not the activity centre, but rather another structure on the southern portion of the property.
The city wants to remove the hedging and fencing to expand the green space near Sarsons Beach, he said.
He added that “no firm decisions” have been made at this time regarding the future of the beloved activity centre.
|Kelowna-Lake Country MP Stephen Fuhr offered words of support to the members of Okanagan Mission Senior Centre Society during its 50th anniversary celebration on Saturday. (Caitlin Clow – Kelowna Capital News)|
“From the second I walked in here…I immediately saw and felt the value of this place,” Kelowna-Lake Country MP Stephen Fuhr said to the more than 100 attendees at the anniversary party.
“This space is amazing,” he said. “It means a lot for the people here in the community and it’s definitely worth keeping.”
He said although the issue is not in the federal jurisdiction, he would do anything he can to use his influence to advocate for the space.
“The City of Kelowna is really, really proud of the seniors’ centre,” added Kelowna city councillor Maxine DeHart.
“I don’t think there is a better location in the city to have a building like this.”
Parlane said the City of Kelowna purchased the former residence in 1973 and converted it for community use.
“It’s really not well designed for community use,” he said.
But, he acknowledged it has great views and has become very popular with the people who use it.
“The (property) was bought with the intention of creating beach access,” he said.
“There were no conditions upon purchase.”
Seniors Minister Filomena Tassi visited the centre alongside Fuhr during last month’s visit to the Kelowna area and praised the centre and the society for all they do, Fuhr explained.
Egeland said instead of demolition, she would rather see fundraising and renovations to upgrade the waterfront space.
“We want our home,” she said.
Parlane said renovations could be an option.
“No decisions have been made, so I can’t say yes or no,” he said.
“It has to be an option on the table until decisions are made.”
The city’s capital plan has proposed the construction of a new activity centre at Mission Recreation Park and Parlane said the development of a new centre could render the Sarsons Beach house redundant.
Talk of designating a seniors’ activity centre near the H2O Adventure and Fitness Centre doesn’t leave a good taste in the society president’s mouth.
Egeland said the cement building with small windows inside the centre won’t ever have the same magic or homey vibe that the senior members love so much about their current location.
“If the place came down,” she said. “I can’t see myself working hard for the society in a place that’s not worthwhile.”
Parlane said community consultation would be undertaken if a new centre is to be constructed to create a “welcoming centre.”