Thanks to Andrew Drouin, President of the South Okanagan Trail Alliance, for the following:
There has recently been some great news for outdoor recreationalists accessing popular frontcountry terrain east of Penticton. For many years locals and tourists alike have crossed private property in order to access the northern reaches of the famous Skaha Bluffs rock climbing area. For their part, the landowners of the time, the Wiltse family, had been kind enough to take the approach of “no motorized vehicles please, other than that, enjoy the land until we develop it.” Recently however, the land in question has changed hands and the new owners/developers have proposed an offer unlike anything we could have hoped for.
In short, the developer has offered a 150-acre parcel of difficult-to-develop land to BC Parks, as an addition to the Skaha Bluff Provincial Park (land that we are technically crossing illegally now) in exchange for the City of Penticton bringing a further 150 acres of developable property into city limits. This request to bring a privately-owned parcel into city limits is the first step towards the addition of 180 new homes to the area’s housing inventory. After several years of planning and community involvement, the City has applied to the Province for a boundary extension to annex the privately-owned parcel. The developers will provide all new infrastructure, including approximately two kilometers of new roads, plus sewer, water and electricity to service the area. Future tax revenue amounting to some $500,000 is estimated to offset the costs associated with maintaining the infrastructure and providing services such as snow clearing and emergency response.
For our part, the South Okanagan Trail Alliance will gain access to terrain that we can legally sign, sanction and maintain (we hold a Partnership Agreement with BC Parks Skaha Prov. Park). The developers are both in their mid-to-late 40s, active in the outdoors and fans of all things trail. To this end, they have added a qualifier to the BC Parks offer: that of BC Parks supporting all existing trail infrastructure on the land, including signing and sanctioning the many “illegal” trails already in existence. They have also designed-in numerous frontcountry access points through the housing development and provided parking for same.
This is more significant that it might seem at first blush, as the historical status quo with Skaha Prov. Park has always been that of only supporting an absolute minimum of trail infrastructure. Skaha Prov. Park has historically focused on conservation of habitat, not recreation.
Our hope is that other developers will look at this project and see the benefits of providing parking and passage through large developments, which generally tend to block, rather than enhance, access to Crown/parkland terrain.
Kudos to the City of Penticton as well as Trevor Johnson and Lorenzo Arcari with Bishop Hill Developments for this opportunity.
President: South Okanagan Trail Alliance