PENTICTON - People of the South Okanagan have some pretty strong opinions when it comes to how the province should protect area parks and they weren’t shy about sharing them in a recent survey.
The province asked for feedback on three areas of the South Okanagan and Similkameen, two for potential inclusion into a park reserve and the third as a provincial conservancy, and what they heard back ranged from complete objection to the idea to the need for the creation of a national park or protection for nearby areas as well.
Some of the additional areas residents would like to see protected include Keremeos Columns Park, the Similkameen River Valley, the Keremeos Grist Mill, Fairview townsite and Haynes historic buildings.
Concerns relating to connectivity between the three areas, and with other conservation holdings in the area, recreational use in the form of hunting and fishing, tourism, ranching, recreational use, bio-diversity and economic benefits were also noted in the responses.
Many participants also used the opportunity to voice their opinion on whether or not a national park reserve should be created in the South Okanagan.
“While all responses were appreciated, the purpose of the Intentions Paper was to solicit public feedback regarding the protected area framework proposal within the paper, one which is intended to reflect as far as possible the wide ranging interests of all groups and individuals; the original 2010 national park reserve proposal is not being considered,” a passage of the consultation summary notes.
Oliver orchardist Greg Norton, a longtime proponent of using the management plan to guide land use in the South Okanagan and Similkameen, says he will be meeting with MLA Linda Larson next week to get a better understanding of the consultation summary.
"I see it as the beginning of a process. I hope down the road people will continue to have input into the issue," he says.
Of the 3,460 responses received, 1,265 submissions originated with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Committee website and 707 from the Wilderness Committee website, both of which facilitated submission of the online questionnaire. In addition, 873 postcards received utilizing template language provided by the Wilderness Committee. Only 12 per cent from online forms on the Intentions Paper, B.C. Parks website.
Only a small portion of respondents said they were from the region.
Next steps include preparing a report to cabinet and identifying interim protection measures which should be considered in the short- to medium-term.
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