Defending the sanctity of public parklands is nothing new for Penticton’s Prema Harris.
On Saturday she joined a group of people at Okanagan Lake Park for the rededication of a bench that was commissioned in 2002 after that property was spared from commercial development.
That situation was not unlike the events at Skaha Lake Park recently where public outcry convinced civic politicians to nix plans for a waterslide operation.
“I just get so mad and what happened at Skaha Lake Park was deja vu,” said Harris who became a member of the Protect Our Parkland group and helped lead the fight 15 years ago. “I did it for her (pointing to daughter Mia). It was organized because of the threat to this beautiful piece of land, to be developed into a time share, or condo or hotel which was proposed at the time.
“It was just a shock to us because we thought this was always park.”
The fight against the development started in the late 90’s and carried on until 2002 when a public referendum was held in which 91 per cent of the electorate agreed to a bylaw dedicating 12 parcels of city-owned land as park land.
Harris added in her eyes and many other people’s that meant no development but as seen with Skaha Lake Park, that was not the case.
Penticton Citizens First and Save Skaha Lake Park Society lead the opposition to the waterslides and members of both groups were in attendance Saturday.
“It’s a very important day because as we’ve seen over the last few years people’s memories can be short. Elected officials memories can be short,” said David Perry a former Penticton mayor and opponent to the waterslide development. “It’s important to have a day like today where we rededicate and remind everybody of the importance that went on in the battle of 2002 to save this beautiful park space.”
Dr. Gerry Karr was another member of the society in attendance who spoke of the work of the efforts of the Protect Our Parks organization.
“They got their referendum,that proved this was not just a fringe group,” said Karr.”This was a group that truly represented public opinion within the city.
“It wasn’t a city divided it was people united against a council that had made a foolish decision.”
Harris had a final warning to people: “We can’t leave the running of our community to politicians and business interests. We have to become engaged in order to protect and ensure that we have the quality of life that we all came to the Okanagan for.”