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Vernon parks list prohibiting temporary shelters may grow

Six are currently on list; two councillors wanted to add Lakeview and Becker parks; staff to review
Two Vernon councillors would like to see Lakeview Park (pictured) and Becker Park added to the city’s list of parks prohibiting temporary overnight sheltering. (Morning Star - file photo)

Two Vernon councillors wanted to add a pair of well-used parks to the city’s list of green spaces that prohibit temporary overnight sheltering.

They did not get their wish. Not yet, anyway.

Kari Gares and Akbal Mund were hoping to add Lakeview Park, on East Hill, and Becker Park, above the Vernon Curling Club, to the prohibited list that already includes Linear Park (25th Avenue); Cenotaph Park (30th Street); Spirit Square/Civic Grounds (30th Street); Vernon Recreation Centre; Kal Tire Place/Kin Park; and Civic Memorial Park (former site of Vernon Civic Arena).

All other city parks allow for a homeless person to overnight shelter from dusk until 9 a.m., as long as they comply with all other provisions of the city’s Parks and Public Places bylaw, and the shelter is not located on park amenities.

“Lakeview has had some overnight camping and we don’t have anything in our bylaw that allows us to deal with that,” said Gares. “We’re doing a multi-million dollar upgrade to the facility, as well as at Becker Park, so (adding them to the list) it’s something we might want to consider.”

Gares also stated Becker Park is “an extreme fire hazard” right now.

Her motion to add Lakeview and Becker parks was supported by Mund.

“Lakeview Park makes sense,” he said. “There are lots of kids that play there in the summer. There’s a new pool (Peanut Pool revitalization) going in there. Becker Park will have a major upgrade. Again, it makes sense, and I didn’t think about the FireSmart aspect. There have been fires there in the past.”

But Coun. Kelly Fehr wanted to make sure that parks available for temporary overnight sheltering are not all in the downtown core or Polson Park.

“It wouldn’t be a great thing to have all the camps located in one area,” he said. “There are challenges that come with that. If we review parks, we need to review all the parks in the community and ensure they’re dispersed appropriately throughout the entire community. I feel very strong about that.

“We can’t just start reducing (parks). The homeless situation is growing across the country. It’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better.”

Council defeated Gares’ motion to add Lakeview and Becker parks to the prohibited list by a 4-2 margin (Coun. Brian Quiring was absent). Coun. Teresa Durning motioned for staff to come up with a report including some statistics and other “parks of interest” council should be considering.

Her motion passed 4-2 with Gares and Mund opposed.

READ MORE: PHOTOS: Grieving son plants floral tribute option at Vernon cemetery

READ MORE: Questions dive into Vernon recreation funding dilemma

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Roger Knox

About the Author: Roger Knox

I am a journalist with more than 30 years of experience in the industry. I started my career in radio and have spent the last 21 years working with Black Press Media.
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