PENTICTON - The prospect of a BMX track and mountain biking skills park on Munson Mountain isn’t sitting to well with some area residents.
A number of landowners surrounding Munson Mountain turned out in front of city hall prior to the start of Tuesday's council meeting on May 19, placards in hand, to protest use of city owned property for recreational cycling purposes.
George Manz, who owns 19 acres, some of which is an organic vineyard on property below that proposed for the BMX track, said his plans to diversify into organic asparagus would be stymied by the dust created from a BMX track. He would rather see the property become an agricultural show farm that would attract tourists.
“Munson Mountain is the city’s welcoming card,” he said, indicating the white letters on the side of the ridge that spell out Penticton. “To have an eyesore like this at the bottom is absurd,” he added.
Prior to hearing from the area residents upset with the idea council listened to delegations from the Penticton and Area Cycling Association and Friends of Munson Mountain, both offering opposing views of what should be done with the city lands located there.
George McBryde, presented the cycling association's case, urged council to re-apply to the Agricultural Land Commission to allow cycling uses on the mountain. The organization is working hand in hand with BMX Penticton to build a mountain bike skills course at the same location. He said the location choice was not a 'close your eyes' option, adding if council turned down the request, he would welcome those opposing the site to help his group find another location.
Friends of Munson Mountain spokesperson Barbara Lambert, representing the 2,700 member group Save Penticton’s Agricultural Land from Division and Extinction said a petition was signed by the group in 2005 against the development of sports fields on Munson Mountain and asked council to abandon further plans to approach the commission regarding use of the land for biking purposes, because the land in question had been vouched for by a 'distinguished agronomist' as class A farmland several years ago. She said the city’s agricultural committee had already rejected the site and further effort by the city to reapply would be costly, time consuming and devisive.
Public Works Manager Len Robson reviewed the history of the ALR application for council, noting the application was approved then denied. The city was advised that reapplication would be necessary, which could take an indefinite length of time to be assessed. He said the application came with a price tag, including an agrologist’s fee of $3,850 to assess the land.
“Since we have a quote from an agrologist to assess the land, perhaps council would want to proceed with that option, with the hopes of gaining a true understanding of what the land value is for growing on, presently,” Robson said.
Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said council was trying to utilize city land in the best way possible, and the city owned land at Munson Mountain was currently an empty field.
“To make an informed decision, it does make sense to get a new soil sample, because one of the same people said 10 years ago it wasn’t suitable for farmland and is now saying it’s the greatest farmland in the world, and we haven’t added anything to it,” he said.
A motion to have the soil testing done and in the interim, while awaiting results, direct staff to evaluate other opportunities for cycling association and the BMX group to co-exist was found to be acceptable as the next move for council, who were unanimous in their support.
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