Penticton businessman responds to national park letter

Letter to the editor contains some misinformation, says writer

To the Editor:

Rebuttal to a letter written by Doreen Olson Coordinator of the South Okanagan Similkameen National Park Network

In a letter originally written to the Penticton Chamber of Commerce, and subsequently printed in a few South Okanagan news papers (19 June, 2013), Doreen Olson, Coordinator of the South Okanagan Similkameen National Park Network, has made a number of inaccurate statements regarding HNZ Topflight.

She misquoted portions of two letters that had been sent to HNZ from the Director General of Parks Canada. The following are actual excerpts from these letters, which should clarify the Parks Canada position, and to better explain our concerns regarding a National Park.

May 26, 2006: “Thus we will work with you to accommodate your requirements to the extent possible within the broad context of the Canada National Parks Act and its regulation, and within an ecological integrity and visitor experience framework that emphasizes monitoring, reporting, evaluation and adaptive management to deal with issues that arise.”

This means that HNZ Topflight’s business could be restricted by the Parks regulations, ecological assessments, and any visitors to the park. Business owners, around the Okanagan, can understand our reluctance to support a concept that may significantly restrict our ability to provide our core product.

Feb 27, 2008: “I would like to reiterate…that Parks Canada will accommodate the flight training school activities, under permit, subject to an environmental assessment and an agreement outlining the management of the activity.”

Once again our activities would be controlled and restricted by Parks Canada.

Another of Doreen’s statements was that HNZ was keeping these letters secret. Both these letters were forwarded on April 2, 2008, by fax, to 10 individuals including MP’s, MLA’s, the Mayor of Penticton, the Chairman of the RDOS, and the president of the Penticton Chamber of Commerce. No secrets here.

Doreen wrote that “less than 10 per cent of HNZ’s helicopter landings occur in the national park concept area.” The South Okanagan Grasslands component of the 2010 Draft Park Concept area is more than double the size of the provincial protected areas in that parcel. As such, about 20 per cent of the HNZ landing zones are in this area. This is enough to significantly disrupt the training. Complete modules will be missed from the course, and as a result, a national park in this area would drastically reduce the value of our training and the viability of our business in Penticton.

Until HNZ receives an unreserved guarantee that our business can have unlimited and unfettered access to our traditional training grounds, we will not be supporting the creation of a national park in an area that is already sufficiently protected.

Mr. Jan Rustad, Chief Flying Instructor / Manager Business, Penticton