Vernon Council persuaded that new park needs a last-minute rethink | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Vernon Council persuaded that new park needs a last-minute rethink

The proposed 32 Avenue site for the Greater Vernon Cultural Centre. Could it also contain a park?
August 18, 2020 - 5:54 PM

One year after Vernon council unanimously voted to turn the site of the former Civic Arena into a park, council has decided to put the project on hold to give them time to look at different possibilities.

Vernon council had been due to receive a planning update and public survey results about the proposed park before they unanimously decided to pause the project, to look at going in a different direction. The move was spearheaded by councillor Brian Quiring at the Aug. 17 meeting.

In a lengthy speech, Coun. Quiring suggested the park should instead be built next to the future Greater Vernon Cultural Centre Centre building which is slated for around 50 per cent of the city-owned block at 32 Avenue and 29 Street – known as the Vernon block.

"Why don't we create a park on the balance of the Vernon block site to actually encourage the use of that park by the users of the Cultural Centre," Quiring said. "To me, that is good land use."

The Vernon Civic Arena was demolished in fall 2018 after 80 years of use. In August 2019 council voted to turn the site into a park and the city staff have been working on the file since, with a public survey recently being completed. Construction on the park had been planned to start later this year, once a design was finalized.

But Quiring said the Civic Arena site, at 37 Avenue, was prime for development and a park at the site didn't have enough draw.

Coun. Kelly Fehr objected to the idea, saying the old Civic Arena site should be turned into a park.

But Coun. Quiring's passionate speech persuaded enough councillors to re-consider.

"I actually love the idea," Coun. Kari Gares said.

The Great Vernon Cultural Centre project has come under criticism for moving too slowly since residents voted in favour of the building in a referendum in fall 2018. A North Okanagan Regional District staff report recently stipulated a land sale agreement, cost analysis, and architectural renderings had to be completed by October to apply for a federal grant application or the entire project may be lost.

"I think we need some out of the box thinking to get behind this Cultural Centre... I think we dropped the ball... we need something we can get behind," Quiring said. "We're paying for 60 per cent of this building, it's in our downtown and we haven't considered what we can do, we haven't considered how this thing fits into the urban fabric at all."

Quiring also suggested moving the cenotaph to the new park next to the Cultural Centre and turning Cenotaph Park into a parkade.

"So we have enough parking for this huge facility we're building downtown Vernon which will do nothing but help downtown Vernon," he said. "This is the time to rethink. This is the time to consider how we can make this facility the best it can be for our downtown."

Council ultimately voted unanimously to put a temporary pause on the planning on the Civic Arena site, while the Cultural Centre file moves forward.

Council then voted to finalize a sale and purchase agreement for 50 per cent of the Vernon block site for the Greater Vernon Cultural Centre with the Regional District of North Okanagan.

A preliminary design for the park at the site of the old Civic Arena.
A preliminary design for the park at the site of the old Civic Arena.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED:City of Vernon

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