To the editor:
25 years after inception, the Party For The Park is finally going to start.
I need to send a heartfelt thank you to the many, many people for making this waterfront park a reality. You have just saved what is likely worth $25 million of prime waterfront land right in the heart of our beloved city. Wait: I guess it will now never have a price—it’s priceless.
And now, please take a moment for the real story.
In 1989 the park concept was born by a few people with a long term vision. They had patience, and even the whole community rallied by supporting a public referendum to raise taxes in order to buy this land, one small piece at a time. In March of 1996, a Confidential City Memorandum approving the purchase of the property at 252 Meilke Ave. (corner of Walnut and Meikle) for $443,000 stated: “This acquisition will leave only one remaining parcel to complete the Cedar Avenue park site.” In a document for another purchase it states: “Staff’s recommendation is to continue renting the existing residences until all properties have been acquired and then to develop the entire area as a neighbourhood beach front park similar to Kinsmen and Strathcona parks.”
In fact, there are 26 pages of similar documents that outline the whole process that occurred over an eight year period ending in 1997, some 17 years ago.
Then, somehow the vision that was finally completed for $3.9 million got lost. Seven years later, around 2004, an announcement was made about the possibly of a new grand hotel on the waterfront at the foot of Cedar Avenue. To allow for this opportunity (which was actually just a vision), a change to the OCP was needed. Those seven years had eroded the memories of many residents, and although the few that remembered the original intent tried to stop the changes, they were pushed through by mayor and council. Somehow, those in City Hall had lost their memories, and we had lost our park.
In 2011, with the hotel plan on the south half presumably still percolating, a plan came forward to develop the north half of the park with a large residential and commercial building but saving room for a waterfront walkway. At some point during that time (I don’t recall exactly when) I received a phone call from a lovely lady named Carol Halton. She wanted to show me something she had long ago stored in her cabinets inside a folder that said, “do not every destroy”. Inside the faded folder were dozens of pages that detailed the history of each and every land purchase (which I have referenced above). Those documents became the basis for the fight to stop the 2011 development proposal, which thankfully succeeded.
Unfortunately, a decision to do nothing endured for another three years, perhaps with hope the people with inspiration would again fade.
Which brings us to 2014, where one last attempt was made, this time in the name of saving us from spending millions of tax dollars needed to demolish eight homes, install irrigation and plant grass. We would still be worthy of a tiny park, but that could still be years away until our hero hotel developer one day would come and pay for the lamp standards and sidewalks.
Perhaps you now understand why I spent 10 years fighting for this park.
Carol Halton, you were the cornerstone that saved this city from losing over $25 million of parkland, and there will now one day soon be a new park that stands to become one of the most significant and precious pieces of Kelowna waterfront. Best of all, you will be here to witness it happen.
We have wasted more than enough money trying to forget history. Let’s each throw in twenty bucks to get the basics done now. Carol is owed this one, not to mentioned the people before her who had the vision.