There’s growing pressure on local politicians to ensure public access to parks.
The Greater Vernon Advisory Committee was lobbied by residents Thursday to maintain Heritage Park even though the owner, the Vernon School District, is proceeding with selling the Bella Vista site.
“This was purchased by taxpayers of the area (as a possible school site) so we should get a deal on it,” said director Gyula Kiss.
In September, the school district designated five properties as surplus. Two of them, Heritage Park and N’Kwala Park in the BX, are leased by GVAC for use.
Mike Macnabb, GVAC chairperson, is frustrated the properties may be have to be purchased although they are already public assets.
“It’s sort of like the taxpayers paying twice for it,” he said.
Neighbours of Heritage Park are concerned the land could be sold to the highest bidder.
“It is utilized not only for dog walking but by young and old alike,” said Andy Hume, with a residents’ committee.
“There’s seniors walking the paths, children and young adults for bicycle riding, kite flying and remote control aircraft flying as well as a general space to get out and enjoy.”
Hume envisions the site eventually having a community garden.
“Our committee firmly believes it is in the best interest of all Vernon residents as well as those in the Westmount/Bella Vista area to maintain at least the amount of useable park space that now exists,” he said.
“Such a green space site as this will be increasingly important as development in the area continues to increase the population density. Once the green space is gone, it is gone forever.”
The City of Vernon will ultimately be responsible for local park matters under a new parks structure. But until that process is finalized, GVAC and the Regional District of North Okanagan remains involved.
“We will endeavour to keep the park as it is,” said Trafford Hall, RDNO administrator, of Heritage Park.