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Largest ever regional park purchase announced

Map of Black Mountain/Sntsk’il’nten Regional Park.
Image Credit: Contributed/RDCO
September 20, 2014 - 1:23 PM

It’s an ecological gem; a unique, geological landmark that towers over Kelowna’s eastern boundary. Now it is protected.

Black Mountain/Sntsk‘il’nt?n Regional Park has officially been announced at a ceremony with Regional District Chair Robert Hobson, Westbank First Nation Chief Robert Louie and the Honourable Steve Thomson, BC Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

The creation of the 510-hectare regional park comes with $7-million in funding from the Regional Parks Legacy and Park Land Reserve funds, a $2.3-million donation through the Federal Government Ecological Gift Program and a co-tenure/management agreement between the Regional District and Westbank First Nation for a License of Occupation on 121.5-hectares of Crown Land, with a sponsorship value of $1,024,350.

This park includes the purchase of 259-hectares of private land; the donation of 129.5-hectares of land through the Ecological Gifts Program and the joint Crown Land tenure with Westbank First Nation. The new park will be co-managed by the Regional District and Westbank First Nation.

“The unique geological formation of Black Mountain is often the first thing many people see when they arrive by road or by air. It offers spectacular views but more importantly, preserves and protects a critically valuable dry grassland ecosystem, that’s under-represented and increasingly threatened and disappearing from the Okanagan valley landscape.” Hobson says. “This area supports a rich and diverse wildlife population, of which many species are endangered or threatened.”

“I’m extremely pleased that the Westbank First Nation is partnering with the Regional District in the tenure and management of important Crown Land parcels that are a key part of the new regional park. As well, on behalf of the Regional Board I thank the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations for approving our tenure agreement and seeing the value in the creation of Black Mountain/ Sntsk‘il’nt?n Regional Park.”

The inclusion of the syilx/Okanagan word Sntsk‘il’nt?n (sinch-keel-en-tin) in the Black Mountain park name is fitting as it translates to “the place where arrowheads/flint rock is found”. The property has additional First Nations cultural significance as there is quite an array of plants and medicines found in the area.

“Anytime an area within our traditional territory is protected, we are pleased,” WFN Chief Robert Louie says. “Lythics found in the area demonstrate it was a significant gathering place for our ancestors to make the necessary survival tools and, we can assume, it was a vantage point from which the valley below could be scoped out for wildlife and intruders."

“The provision of the Crown land grant to this new regional park is just one example of how Crown land can be used for the greater good of the community. It is also wonderful that the regional district and Westbank First Nation are able to partner on managing this park for the benefit of residents and tourists,” Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Steve Thomson says.

The new park will remain closed to the public while a management plan is created and trails and signage are developed that will ensure education and awareness and the protection of the sensitive grassland environment.

In 2008, the Regional Board unanimously agreed to establish a special tax requisition over five years to build the Parks Legacy Fund in order to leverage the purchase and protection of important properties for the Regional Park system.  Since that time, along with funding from the Park Land Reserve Fund, $22.1-million in property purchases have been made.  Along with land donations and Crown tenure agreements valued at $11.3-million, almost 900 additional hectares of land has been added to the Regional Park system worth over $33.4-million.

This year is the 40th anniversary of the Central Okanagan Regional Park system. Since it began in the fall of 1974 and with the purchase of the almost four-hectare Kaloya Regional Park in Lake Country in early 1975, it’s grown to protect more than 1,900-hectares of land in 31 regional parks.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014
InfoTel News Ltd

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