The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce is supporting the city’s call for the province to expand a local provincial park.
A 234-acre property is for sale at 9747 Cameron Road, adjacent to Ellison Provincial Park. Vernon Resident Mike Brown created an online petition to call on the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change to purchase the property in mid June. That petition has since eclipsed 10,000 signatures, and Brown’s idea has been endorsed by city council.
In a show of support, the chamber sent a letter to the province in late June urging the government to acquire the Chelsea Estate property.
“With tourism an increasingly important anchor to the economy, preserving sandy beaches along Okanagan Lake is critical to draw visitors to the Okanagan and, as the population of the Okanagan grows, there is demand from local residents to access the lakeshore,” said Greater Vernon Chamber president Krystin Kempton.
Increasing the park land would help ensure the protection of ponderosa pines and grasslands, as well as significant shoreline critical to the survival of aquatic species such as kokanee salmon, the chamber said.
The Chamber also noted the property’s location along Okanagan Lake has been part of the Syilx Nation for generations.
“Just as the creation of Fintry and Kekuli Bay provincial parks in the last 30 years have contributed to the Okanagan’s economy and lifestyle, we believe strongly that the addition of the 234 acres to Ellison Provincial Park will provide a legacy for future generations,” Kempton said.
The District of Lake Country also plans to join the chorus of support for the land acquisition. The agenda for the district’s July 7 council meeting includes a notice of motion that the district write a letter to the province supporting the City of Vernon’s request.
According to the motion by Coun. Blair Ireland, the land represents “one of the last opportunities to have a large public space on Okanagan Lake.”
The property came up at the regular meeting of Vernon council on June 22, with Coun. Scott Anderson successfully motioning for Mayor Victor Cumming to send a letter to Victoria, asking them to buy the land to use as park, and a letter to the Regional District of North Okanagan calling for their support of the initiative.
Colliers International has the listing for the property, advertising it as a “century-old property with significant development potential in the heart of British Columbia’s Okanagan region.”
Mark Lester, Colliers’ senior vice president, unique properties/personal real estate corporation, said there is no price tag on the property, though its cumulative assessed value is approximately $16.5 million.
All things considered, it’s a costly undertaking. But Kempton says the province will need to weigh the opportunity cost at stake before deciding against the purchase.
“We are abundantly aware that there is a significant cost to acquiring land and then developing it into provincial park, but we ask, ‘What is the price if we do nothing, if we let this opportunity slip away?’”