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Time to protest South Okanagan national park is over, says regional district director

Parks Canada's Sarah Boyle discusses plans for a national park in the South Okanagan with regional district board members, Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018.
September 20, 2018 - 3:00 PM

PENTICTON - A South Okanagan regional district director had a pointed message for those opposing the creation of a national park in the South Okanagan at today's board meeting.

"You know something is happening. It’s time to get to the table. It’s not good enough to put up signs anymore," Oliver director Ron Hovanes says.

Sarah Boyle with Parks Canada made a presentation to the Okanagan-Similkameen Regional District board today, Sept. 20, about the current status of a national park in the South Okanagan. Boyle has been working on the project full time since June; ensuring requirements are in place for the start of new consultations slated to begin in November.

Hovanes used the presentation to make a plea to the public to get engaged in the process.

"I've been suggesting to people who are talking to me about it, whatever hard line you're taking, I've been saying, 'you know something is going to happen. It's time to share what your concerns are," he said.

Boyle said the public consultation process starting in November would be “largely online” for a 90-day period while she works with local groups and communities, and organizes public information sessions.

Parks Canada expects to have a memorandum of understanding ready by August 2019, followed by a one- to two-year negotiation phase concluding with a 12-year park establishment phase, which she said is "long and detailed."

She said the park is expected to open in 2020 or 2021, but didn't know when it would be ready for tourism.

"(During) the first 10 years typically, infrastructure is being developed,” she said.

Keremeos director Manfred Bauer asked how the consultation process would differ from the past 12 years. Boyle said this consultation was focussed on what the park boundaries would look like, saying all the information gathered from previous consultations would be integrated into the final consultation.

Boyle said a map outlining proposed park boundaries would be available during the November consultation process. She also assured directors there would be no expropriation process, saying Parks Canada cannot gain lands through expropriation. She said existing cattle leases would be honoured and a strategy for cattle ranchers was being developed.

Cawston director George Bush said he feared Parks Canada would simply become the biggest realtor in the area with its land position, and eventually be in a position to buy up all the land. He expressed concerns about the loss of 10,000 acres of B.C. agricultural land, with local government being left out of the conversation.

Boyle said consultation would "most certainly" involve local municipalities, with outreach to specific groups and communities. She said it was not Parks Canada’s intention to grow the park once boundaries were established.

She will be back before the regional district board on Dec. 6 with an update.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad or call 250-488-3065 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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