August 26, 2013 - 8:29 AM
KELOWNA – After publicizing its grand vision to redesign downtown's biggest park space, city planners are dealing with a heated response from local residents.
A large new pavillion and tourism centre, added parking and paving over an historic rose garden, are just some of the designs spawning controversy since the release of the City Park concept plan back in June.
City officials maintain that the design plan is not yet set in stone. It's up to city councillors to decide whether the plans get approval.
Next Monday councillors will get a formal briefing on all the feedback collected thus far, from the open house, online survey, as well as the conversations unfolding in the media over the past couple months.
First impressions of the designs at the June 27th open house revealed mixed feelings. Comments from the nearly 150 people in attendance highlighted concerns about the proposed visitor's centre and the added RV traffic it would bring to the park, the impact to the Veendam memorial Gardens and losing the Park's lawn bowling club.
While the club is absent from the concept design, city planners say that doesn't reflect a decision to shut it down altogether. In what would become the park's “activity zone” the bowling club could still find a home. But with a relatively small membership, it's not likely to compete with other sporting facilities believed more popular with the public.
An online survey that closed July 15 gauged the sentiment of another 1,700 residents. While generally happy with plans to revitalize the aquatic area for children, adding a new diving tower, more washroom facilities and bike paths, the feedback echoed concerns about a tourism centre bringing new traffic to the park - a potential safety hazard that would introduce vehicles to a predominantly pedestrian space. Some suggested the best access point for a tourism centre is directly off the highway.
The city has also received 69 letters from residents expressing further concerns about the tourism centre designs. And of the 48 reports in the media tackling the topic, 26 expressed a negative response to the designs, with just three offering a positive review.
If necessary city staff say they are willing to go back to the drawing board with Tourism Kelowna to downsize the visitor's centre. If that's not possible, they will consider alternate locations for the building.
But undertaking the revisions will cost the city more money, in addition to the $185,000 already spent on the design process.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Julie Whittet at email@example.com or call (250)718-0428.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013