Update: Minister Catherine McKenna will be providing an update to Parks Canada representatives about the project on Aug. 17 in Penticton during a closed-door meeting.
(Editor’s Note to poll at right – it seems a lot of consultation taking place with advocates for a park and little or none with others)
Early talks on the development of a national park in the South Okanagan have been focused on the southern areas around Mount Kobau/Grasslands Protected area.
Parks Canada held a news briefing Tuesday to update the public on progress towards the contentious proposed park, which was announced last year.
Kevin McNamee, director of parks establishment, says they have started to prepare a park concept to bring out to the public for consultation, as well as look at potential boundaries.
“Within the three parties that are doing this work, the focus has been on the southern component — which includes the South Okanagan Grasslands Protected areas,” he said. “Not the final boundary or suggested boundary, but our area of interest.”
McNamee was referring to a proposed map tabled by the provincial government in 2015.
Area 3, – Willowbrook/White Lake region, isn’t totally off the table but hasn’t gotten much attention,
Area 2, – Kobau Mtn, and west ridge
Area 1, – South of Richter Pass.
“The province drew up a fairly large area that included places like Willowbrook, if we do something in the north it wouldn’t be in the size of that and certainly would not include any of the communities like Willowbrook.”
Parks Canada hopes to have a proposed boundary nailed down down in the spring/summer 2019, so formal negotiations can be complete by the start of 2020 if possible.
The idea of a national park has long polarized the South Okanagan, with signs in favour and opposed to the plan a fixture on private property throughout the region. Opponents of the park are worried about its impact on ranchers, who have grazed cattle in the area for well over 100 years.
McNamee says they are “considering” allowing ranchers access to park land, and stressed that no expropriation of property will be taking place.
Look to Rouge National and Bruce Peninsula for examples of National Parks in populated areas
But even for most of the remote parks created over the past decade, McNamee said “you have a range of concerns that people raise with us. It’s not uncommon that there are very strong voices of support, voices of opposition.”
He said consultation and talks with stakeholders, overseen by project manager Sarah Boyle, will be ramping up through the end of this year.