Kelowna News

Land rich but cash poor, Kelowna has a park problem

One of the trails at Mill Creek Regional Park in Kelowna.
Image Credit: Google Maps

KELOWNA - Kelowna has a park problem.

The city doesn’t offer its own citizens enough opportunities to enjoy a park, at least compared to some other major B.C. cities and can’t afford to fully develop the parkland it does have, at least not the way it is doing it now.

And that doesn’t count the thousands of tourists to the Central Okanagan who rate a visit to one of Kelowna’s beaches and parks as one of the primary experiences they seek out when they come here.

Without changes, the imbalance will only grow and cost more to fix, is the conclusion of a report by consultant Urban Systems, delivered by parks manager Robert Parlane to Kelowna city councillors this week.

Parlane told councillors Kelowna falls far short of the provincial recommendation of 2.2 hectares of parkland per 1,000 population, not because the city doesn’t have the land but because too much of it remains underdeveloped or undeveloped with no clear funding mechanism other than taxation.

Dozens of park sites around the city sit as bare land, awaiting development, the report notes.

Property developers in Kelowna pay over $5,000 per unit for parkland acquisition but nothing toward turning the property into a functioning park.

Previous attempts by the city to introduce a development cost charge for building parks was met with considerable resistance from the development community.

Despite that potential resistance, Urban Systems is recommending it as one of several possible ways (a hotel tax is another) to rectify the funding shortfall.

Before that, it is also recommending the city remeasure its stock of parks to include linear and natural parks such as the Mission Park Greenway and Bertram Creek Park.

Just to meet demand from population growth, Kelowna will need to acquire 125 hectares of parkland at an estimated cost of $144 million over the next 20 years.

Amending the way it develops parks is so complicated, city councillors have scheduled two more public meetings where they will hear more from Urban systems. Council will likely decide early next year which course to take.

To contact a reporter for this story, email John McDonald or call 250-808-0143 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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