National park talks moving slow

Development of a national park in the South Okanagan is moving along at a snail’s pace, but supporters of the idea say they are satisfied things are finally moving in the right direction.

While formal talks have not started yet, Parks Canada tells Castanet News they are now meeting with the province and local First Nations on a monthly basis to develop a park concept to bring to the public for consultations.

“Consultations with stakeholders, local residents and the general public will begin in the fall of 2018,” Parks Canada said in a statement.

Leading those consultations will be Sarah Boyle, the appointed federal project manager for the proposed park. She most recently steered the development of the Rouge National Urban Park near Toronto, which involved working with farmers within it.

“In the coming weeks, Boyle will be introducing herself to the various stakeholders, organizations and others interested in the South Okanagan project,” Parks Canada said.

Boyle was not made available for an interview, but head of the South Okanagan-Similkameen National Park Network, Doreen Olsen, has met her already and referred to her as “delightful.”

“She seems to understand what issues we have here,” Olsen said.

Despite the lack of formal talks, Olsen said they are quite satisfied with the way things are moving along, “I think there is a lot of conversation going on behind the scene that they can’t tell the public about quite yet.”

“It’s not a case any longer of if we are going to get a park, its when,” she said.

The previous Liberal government made an announcement that talks would be restarting on the national park in January 2017, but Parks Canada clarified to Castanet this week they “were not a party” to that initial announcement.

Things didn’t actually get moving until the new NDP government made an announcement in October 2017 — this time in conjunction to Parks Canada.

“Since October 2017, the parties have each put together teams to support the initiative,” Parks Canada said, referring to Boyle.

When asked what the three side have accomplished since that October 2017 announcement, Parks Canada said:

“The previous feasibility study and technical reports and stakeholder and public consultations have been reviewed and communications material for posting on the Parks Canada web site has been developed to respond to questions posed by stakeholders and the general public.”

“An initial face-to-face trilateral meeting between Parks Canada, the Province of British Columbia and the First Nations took place in March 2018, followed by monthly meetings to develop a national park reserve concept for consultations, including a proposed boundary,” the statement concluded.

It’s not known when formal negotiations on the park will actually begin, but a details like the proposed boundaries will need to be conceptualized first.

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