Parks Canada took its first step in years to engage the public on the proposed national park reserve in the South Okanagan with the launch of a website last Thursday.
The website outlines the importance of the region to Parks Canada’s goal of representing in the national park system Canada’s 39 distinctive landscape regions.
The southern B.C. Interior grasslands is one of the few national landscapes not represented with a national park.
The site also discusses the history of the process, which began in 2002, but has seen setbacks over the years due to opposition from sections of the public and the B.C. government getting cold feet in 2011.
Parks Canada took down its previous website and stopped engaging with stakeholders early in 2012 after the former B.C. Liberal government publicly announced it was suspending the process.
The website is vague on specifics about the upcoming process and boundaries, saying only that no boundaries or park concepts have been defined at this time.
“As discussions resume, the area of interest will primarily focus on the areas that were the subject of previous consideration,” the website says.
After meetings between the three levels of government – the federal government, the Province of B.C. and local First Nations – “next steps include the identification of park concept boundaries and consultations,” the site says.
“Public consultations, including with local indigenous communities, will play a key role in defining the park concept,” according to a FAQ (frequently asked questions) about involvement of local communities. “These discussions will also take into consideration the continuation of ranching and recreational activities in the region.”
The FAQs also respond to questions that have been raised on social media by people fearing the loss of private property rights.
Communities are not included within the boundaries of new national park reserves and the federal government has no jurisdiction over property rights on privately owned lands next to the boundaries of a national park, Parks Canada says.
The website is located at: http://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/cnpn-cnnp/Okanagan.