The Regional District of Central Okanagan (RDCO) board has softened the $39,000 funding cutback blow for the Friends of Fintry Provincial Park Society.
The board voted Sept. 10 to adopt a regional park staff recommendation to reallocate the annual grant extended to the society to ostensibly pay for a curator to manage the Fintry Manor House and octagonal dairy barn heritage site on the Westside, halfway between West Kelowna and Vernon.
But the society will be given a two-year period to absorb the loss, with the grant reduced to $26,000 in 2021 and $13,000 in 2022.
The grant dates back to 2001, created in the aftermath of the regional district incurring a $2 million debt in 1996, amortized over 20 years, towards the purchase of the Fintry Manor land, part of which has been turned into a provincial campground.
It started at $30,000 in 2005, increased to $37,000 in 2006 and then again to $39,000 for the past 11 years.
Murray Kopp, director of parks services for RDCO, said the funding ended due in part to the conclusion of the regional district’s fiscal purchase commitment to the property, and the need for other ‘Friends of’ regional park organizations in need of funding support.
“We have many parks support groups, who do outstanding work in the regional district and reallocating those resources would be more beneficial to the regional parks system,” Kopp said.
Kathy Drew, president of the Friends of Fintry, said the funding withdrawal came as a shock to them, only learning about parks staff recommendation to the board from Kopp on Sept. 4.
“We will carry on regardless but not sure at this point where else we can finding funding. At least we have a little bit of time because originally the funding was to end as of next April, but now it will be stepped down gradually over the next two years,” Drew said.
“We will continue, of course, but it might be in a different manner. We’ll do the best we can.”
Drew explained their volunteer-led group relied on the funding to pay the site curator and historian Dan Bruce.
“Dan is the glue that holds the whole thing together. Without him we would be a ship without a rudder,” she said.
Drew said she was disappointed the board reflected a ‘Kelowna-centric’ viewpoint in stepping back from its financial support of Fintry.
“Five of the 12 directors were supportive of us. It is just getting the rest to realize the regional district is not just Kelowna.”
Drew said the society has received capital project funding support from the province over the years, but there is limited funding available for operating expenses.
With operating hours impacted by the pandemic, Drew said Fintry was visited by 1,500 from May through September, with tour groups limited to six due to public gathering restrictions when it normally would be 20 to 30.
The neighbouring provincial campground is a big draw, accounting for about 80 per cent of heritage site visits.
The pandemic also caused the cancellation of three Fintry Park fair fundraiser events in May, July and September.