A Parks Canada staff member Sarah Boyle said a preliminary park boundary will be ready in November regarding a proposed national park in the South Okanagan and Similkameen.
Project manager Boyle was before the regional district board on Thursday, where she said public consultation throughout the region will begin in November and last until January.
Boyle said Parks Canada will be hosting several public information sessions in that timeframe and that information on the park plan will be posted online in November — and will be taken down 90 days later, she added.
Exact dates and locations for public consultation sessions haven’t yet been determined.
A memorandum of understanding is then expected to be signed in August of 2019, Boyle said, between Parks Canada, the B.C. government and the Okanagan Nation Alliance, to give the park plan a formal green light.
Parks Canada said August park boundaries are currently focused on areas around Mount Kobau and the South Okanagan Grasslands protected area.
“Right now I’m working with our GIS folks in getting updates on property identification numbers,” Boyle said Thursday. “I can’t present that map and give you an idea until we get that figured out at the tripartite level, which will be coming shortly.”
She said it’s hoped the national park would be open by 2020 or 2021, but noted it would take 12 years after that for the park to be fully operational. A national park
The national park plan has long been divisive in the South and Okanagan and Similkameen, and several board members shared concerns that have commonly been heard.
“We’re gunna lose our agricultural land. We have approximately 10,000 acres in the Agricultural Land Reserve… That’s my biggest concern, we’re losing agricultural land all over B.C.,” Cawston director George Bush said.
“The other concern,” Bush continued, “is that the local government is kind of being left out in the consultation, and that’s where I’d like to be included.”
In response, Boyle said the federal, provincial and First Nations governments are working on a strategy to ensure they can work with farmers, particularly cattle ranchers.
Boyle asserted that existing cattle leases on Crown land would be honoured and that no expropriation of land would take place anywhere in the region if the national park goes ahead.