Open letter to B.C. premier explains local need for national park

I was disappointed to hear of your government’s decision to shelve the plans to create a National Park in the South Okanagan.

Open letter to Premier Clark

Dear Premier Clark:

I was both surprised and disappointed to hear of your government’s decision to shelve the plans to create a National Park in the South Okanagan.  The reasons for my surprise are as follows:

1.  The local people want this park.  The only scientific poll carried out to date indicates about two-thirds of the people in the South Okanagan and Similkameen are in favour of the park, while only a quarter oppose it. In my personal experience, many opponents to the park plan are very misinformed about the size, placement and management of the proposed park, and are actually objecting to situations that were rectified through consultation years ago.

2. Local businesses want this park.  Hotel, motels, restaurants and other tourism-based businesses would benefit directly from the extended visitor stays the park would promote.  Wineries and other related businesses would similarly benefit.  The Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association has incorporated the park concept into their five-year plan and obviously hoping it becomes a reality.

3. The park would provide about 500 permanent jobs, a badly needed boost to the local economy.  These would be “clean” jobs generated by a project that the public wants.

4. Eight years of negotiations have answered objections initially raised by the ranching industry, and my sources tell me that the vast majority of local ranchers now support the park concept.  Similarly, negotiations with local First Nations are in advanced stages, ironing out how co-management would work in the park.

5. Park opponents seem to be dominated by local hunters and all-terrain vehicle users.  These groups have the entire valley to play in, and will only suffer minor inconvenience if the park goes ahead in its present form, a form much reduced in size from previous plans.  In contrast, supporters of the park proposal will be denied the considerable benefits that the park will provide if the plans are shelved.

My disappointment obviously stems from the fact that your government has chosen to listen to a small minority of constituents, and threatens to cancel an exciting project that would be of great benefit to the social, economic and environmental well-being of British Columbia.  Please reconsider this decision.  We can’t afford to lose this opportunity and all the hard work that has gone into making this dream a reality.  In closing, I simply ask, why did you feel that the desires of the small minority outweighed the obvious benefits to the majority of British Columbians?

Dick Cannings, Penticton