Improvements to the building at the start point of the river channel float were done last year by the Penticton Indian Band. (File photo)

Long-term lease of city parkland off the table in south Okanagan

The K’ul Group and City of Penticton now looking at options other than a long-term lease of parkland

The two sides negotiating Coyote Cruises’ use of city parkland are no longer talking long-term lease.

The K’ul Group, which oversees Coyote Cruises Okanagan River Channel floating operations on behalf of the Penticton Indian Band (PIB) and the City of Penticton are now looking at other options, including a licensing arrangement.

The 20-year lease K’ul had initially sought would have required a public referendum or alternative approval process as spelled out under the city’s new park-use policy requiring electorate confirmation.

That policy was implemented after the public outcry over the potential private water park business that had been proposed for the city-owned Skaha Lake Park.

“It was a bit of a frustrating experience and that’s not the fault of the city at all,” said Mike Campol, director of partnerships and projects for the K’ul Group. “I understand why they put that process in place because of what happened at Skaha Park and I just don’t see this as the same thing, that we’re taking away green space or developing on green space which was the issue with Skaha Park.

“We’re just looking for long-term but unfortunately it fell under their new parks process. It was expensive, onerous and unfair to PIB so the partnership group decided we would rather look at the long-term license agreement or a licence agreement with several renewals and go that way.”

READ MORE: Floating the Okanagan River Channel in jeopardy?

He said talks with the city last year went well and is looking forward to resuming them in the new year.

“The conversations have been good. I think we’re confident everybody now understands that floating the channel is an important thing in Penticton. It’s a big draw in Penticton,” said Campol. “We feel pretty confident we’ll get a long-term situation.”

He added that the building Coyote Cruises uses as the starting point — on the city-owned Riverside Park at the north end of the channel — is badly in need of the repair that he said will now be the city’s responsibility. Some work was done on the building last year by the band but Campol believes some significant structural issues need to be dealt with.

“So that takes a lot of expense off the partnership, which is why we really wanted that long-term lease,” said Campol. “So we made the decision we didn’t want to continue down that road (long-term lease).”

READ MORE: Penticton’s Coyote Cruises announces new partnership, updates council on proposal to enhance operations

The lease expired last September and K’ul had real concerns the cost of the new one would be too expensive to keep the business going because it was going to be based on assessed value.

“We didn’t feel that was fair to pay an exorbitant amount for a lease. A licence fee, I’m assuming, and the way the conversation is going, would be more towards what it has been, potentially more because of the improvements that are going to be done and that’s understandable,” said Campol. “If the city has to sink some real money into the building and the license fee has to go up, that’s reasonable.”

He added the business only operates part of the year and that only 30 per cent of the people floating the channel use the services of Coyote Cruises, adding that everyone exits on PIB lands ether at the Green Mountain Road midway point or the south end.

Jim Bauer, chief financial officer for the City of Penticton is also positive about the outcome of the current talks.

“We’ve got some details to work through and then we’ll be in a position to come to an arrangement that’s going to work for them (K’ul) in the future,” he said, adding the decision to go the licencing route was a mutual one. “We’re hoping to get things finalized fairly soon and that way we’re well in advance of the 2020 season.”



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The Coyote Cruises bus picks up customers at the exit point on Penticton Indian Band property at Skaha Lake. (File photo)

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