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Why beach access, park development should matter to Kelowna voters

PLANKelowna leader Al Janusas leads the Walk the Beach march, August, 2017 in Kelowna.

KELOWNA - If Kelowna would properly fund development of the lakeshore parkland and foreshore lands it controls, there would be no need for a Walk the Beach protest, its leader says.

While beach access and park development might seem separate issues, PLANKelowna leader Al Janusas says the two are intrinsically tied together and worthy of voters attention in this October’s municipal election, given how far behind Kelowna is on both counts.

“Lakeshore parks are my focus but they are symptom of a larger problem,” he says, of his group's mandate: to force the development of long-delayed parks along the lakeshore and the clear definition of a public pathway from the Bennett Bridge to Gyro Beach. “Some of this land has sat for 20 years. This current administration is clearly showing reluctance to get the money to build parks, I think largely because they don't ask for community amenity contributions from developers.”

While the city is considering a new parks development charge, Janusas points out it would only apply to parks in new developments going forward and not to the backlog of parks throughout the city that sit undeveloped because of lack of funding.

“They’ve missed the boat. They’ve had four years to bring something like a community amenity contribution during the largest building boom this city has every seen,” Janusas says. “Most big cities have them. I think it shows the cozy relationship between this mayor and council and developers. I don’t think they have the balls to do it. The fact is the developers are making money hand over fist and yet they are not providing the necessities for the people of Kelowna."

Kelowna's current council — he makes a clear destinction between staff and politicians — seem "strangely reluctant" to deal with the beach access issue despite his group's best efforts, Janusas adds. "I think there's a lot of very well-off people who live on the lakeshore and who have their ear on this and they've backed themselves into a corner."

Janusas will lead Walk the Beach again this Sunday, Aug. 26 down Kelowna’s lakeshore from the Bennett Bridge to Gyro Beach in an effort to show how private property owners along the lakeshore have violated the public’s right to access the foreshore unimpeded by building illegal retaining walls and docks and allowing vegetation to grow unimpeded into the lake.

While the current council has presided over the purchase of several lakefront properties intended for eventual use as park space, Janusas says such purchases are useless without development.

“During the last four years, this mayor and council have completed exactly zero new parks on the lakeshore despite having hundreds of people, directly and indirectly, tell them to do just that,” Janusas says. “We want people to ask candidates in the election how they plan to improve accessibility to the lakeshore and how they’re going to build the parks we need before we give them our vote.”

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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