B.C. Parks will 'review' provincial park possibility for North Okanagan lakeside property | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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B.C. Parks will 'review' provincial park possibility for North Okanagan lakeside property

The property features several sandy bays on Okanagan Lake.
June 26, 2020 - 3:32 PM

B.C. Parks will review the possibility of turning a 234-acre property near Vernon on Okanagan Lake into a provincial park.

The property, which is adjacent to Ellison Provincial Park, recently went on the market and quickly spurred a campaign to turn to the lakeside property into a provincial park, garnering support from local residents, City Hall, and the business community.

"B.C. Parks receives numerous proposals every year regarding land purchases for addition to the provincial parks and protected areas system. Staff maintain a list of acquisition priorities for private property that are identified based on ecological and recreational criteria," the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy told iNFOnews.ca in an emailed statement.

B.C. Parks added that it will be reviewing the property.

However, turning the private land, valued at over $16.5 million, into a provincial park is no easy feat, and even boundary adjustments to existing parks require changes to legislation.

The Chelsea Estates property, located roughly 15 kilometres south of Vernon at 9747 Cameron Road, was recently put on the market for the first time in over 50 years. The property features three sandy bays, a 1912 heritage home, and has been subdivided into 11 separate lots, nine of which are on the water. Around 190 acres of the site is within the Agricultural Land Reserve.

An online petition asking the province to turn the land into a park has received almost 7,000 signatures in less than a week. Vernon city councillor Scott Anderson put forward a motion June 22 requesting the province purchase the land for a provincial park.

The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce quickly joined the movement by writing to Premier John Horgan requesting his government purchased the land to turn it into a provincial park.

"With tourism an increasingly important anchor to the economy, preserving sandy beaches along Okanagan Lake is critical to draw visitors to the Okanagan and, as the population of the Okanagan grows, there is demand from local residents to access the lakeshore,” Greater Vernon Chamber president Krystin Kempton said in the letter.

The Chamber points to the creation of Fintry and Kekuli Bay Provincial Parks over the last 30 years as an example of how they can contribute to the Okanagan’s economy and lifestyle.

Judging by the legislation, turning private land into a provincial park, and vice versa, is a complex and lengthy process.

The provincial government has extensive criteria in submitting a proposal to adjust a park boundary, which includes everything from documenting the social and environmental impacts to consulting with local communities, First Nations, and provincial and federal agencies. Cost is also an issue and often land is acquired, gifted or purchased for less than market value.

The Change.org petition can be found here.

The property includes several lakeside cabins.
The property includes several lakeside cabins.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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