Plans for developing the Skaha Lake Marina and an adjacent piece of parkland hit two snags recently when the Penticton Indian Band requested more consultation and an opposition group filed a civil claim.
Chief Jonathan Kruger said the Penticton Indian Band’s request for archaeological and environmental assessments of the area came after they realized the extent of Trio Marine Group’s plans. Earlier consultations with Trio and the city about the project, Kruger said, hadn’t included the controversial waterslide complex to be built where the children’s splash pad currently sits.
“We supported the expansion of the marina, working with the Okanagan Nation Alliance Fisheries Department, and we didn’t have a problem with the restaurant,” said Kruger. “We didn’t know anything else that was going on with the Trio group, the waterslide and all that stuff.”
Kruger said the band is just following their policy, developed after a 2014 Supreme Court decision clarified First Nations rights to be consulted about uses of land under claim. In this case, the PIB has an unresolved timber claim covering the area the city has leased to Trio.
“We are not taking a political stance on this. We are just trying to do our due diligence,” said Kruger. “We wrote a letter because we do have a concern with regards to a specific claim.”
Kruger said that area would once have been wetlands, and an important source of food and resources for the band.
“I hear stories that back in the day, there was 40,000 people living here. That was Syilx people,” said Kruger, also pointing out that in more recent times, the PIB reserve was much larger.
“Half the city was actually reserve lands, if you look at maps from 1910,1911. Not saying that we are going to take it away, but we certainly have a position there that we want to negotiate, get something from that,” said Kruger. “We just want to do our due diligence and make sure we are involved in the future of any developments in Penticton.
“We do that with the province, we do that in our territory throughout the Okanagan Nation, We need to be consistent with the city of Penticton and the regional district.”
Taking into account the band’s request and the recent receipt of joint lease agreement with the province for the marina, Trio requested and was granted a one-year extension to their development agreement for the marina portion, and now are not required to submit a detailed financial plan until Oct., 1 2016.
Another factor is the civil suit in B.C. Supreme Court by the Save Skaha Park society, which was filed on Sept. 25. The 11-page claim states that at least two lots that make up the park, acquired in 1942 and 1954, have trust conditions that the city operate and maintain them as public park.
The suit rests on 10 legal points, arguing that the city does not have the authority to permit Skaha Park to be used except as a public park, and that the 29-year lease with Trio Marine is a form of disposition and can not go ahead without public approval.
Trio Marine issued a press release late Tuesday acknowledging the difficulties, but confirming they plan to move forward with their plans.
“We would like to recognize people’s passion for this project, both the positive and the not so positive,” reads the release. “Trio Marine Group will continue to work together with the City of Penticton, Save Skaha Park society, and the Penticton Indian Band to discuss concerns of all parties involved while working towards a positive advancement of the Skaha Lake project.