Summerland firefighters and members of the Summerland Kinsmen Club worked to demolish the old playground in Memorial Park. A new playground complex will be set up in the same area. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)

Summerland firefighters and members of the Summerland Kinsmen Club worked to demolish the old playground in Memorial Park. A new playground complex will be set up in the same area. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)

COLUMN: Plans to enhance Summerland parks

Efforts made to bring about various improvement projects

Summerland residents take their parks and recreation very seriously. Fortunately, so does Summerland council as demonstrated in our Active Lifestyles strategic priority, district staff, local service clubs and many volunteers who donate their time or make financial contributions.

The Parks and Recreation Commission is a group of keen, knowledgeable and diligent volunteers who meet regularly to review the priorities of the Parks and Recreation Master Plan (2017) and make recommendations to council.

Several recreational initiatives are either underway or planned for completion before the year end.

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The most obvious right now is the work for the new playground at Memorial Park, which is sure to provide as much enjoyment for the younger set as the Summerland Skatepark is for a broad age range of enthusiasts. As is often the case, local groups have stepped up to assist with the funding of what is expected to be a destination playground, and the call is open for volunteers who would like to lend a hand in one way or another.

Located near the adult outdoor exercise gym installed in 2021, the playground is another piece of the redesign of Memorial Park. The park is part of the larger Downtown Neighbourhood Plan that is also underway.

After hearing that a grant application for the restroom upgrades at Peach Orchard and Rotary Beaches had not been successful early this year, the district put this project on hold. However, the project is back on the books for 2022 after the province was able to free up funds to award the grant after all.

This work will complement the reconstruction of the lakeshore pathway that was done last year following the significant high-water damage in 2017. In this time of climate change and the need to build community resiliency, the redeveloped pathway, complete with upgraded lighting, is a great example of building back better.

One of the washrooms will also be made for four-season operation, so that washroom facilities can be available to match the year-round use of the lakeshore by residents.

Late last month, the district received word that the necessary approvals from provincial ministries had been granted and work will be undertaken to reconstruct the portion of the Centennial Trail loop along Eneas Creek (Peach Orchard Road) as it flows to Okanagan Lake.

The district is following a prescriptive Environmental Management and Restoration Plan and working with biologists and other professionals to address the environmental sensitivities of working in a riparian area and near a fish-bearing stream.

Provincial funding covers repair of infrastructure that was damaged by the flood water, including work upstream on a portion of Garnet Avenue, with additional funds pitched in from the District’s gas tax funding to support the project. Other areas of Eneas Creek further upstream will be worked on as approvals come through from the provincial and federal governments.

Many people took to the hills during at least the earliest days of the pandemic to maintain physical and mental health outdoors, including Summerland’s two mountain parks: Giant’s Head and Conkle Mountain. To increase roadway accessibility to Giant’s Head, last year council decided to reduce vehicular traffic hours from noon to 9 p.m. each day except Sunday (when the park is open only to non-vehicular use.) This policy worked well to accommodate various uses on the roadway and so we will continue this approach through the 2022 season, beginning April 15.

A partnership with the Summerland Rotary Club and additional funding from the provincial Rural Dividend Program saw Phases 1 and 2 of the redevelopment of the Giant’s Head trails completed in 2020. The result of a grant application for the remaining two phases is pending – fingers crossed!

Parks are for people of all ages and abilities…and for their dogs as well. The updated bylaw regarding dog access to parks was adopted by council in March 2022 and the Dale Meadows off-leash dog park pilot project continues, as does the planning for a third dog park (or fourth, if one includes B.C. Parks’ designated dog beach at Sun-Oka.)

Not to be forgotten are those with equine interests. Public engagement on the so-called Horse Beach (part of the Waterfront Concept Plan) closed recently. The district received hundreds of comments and thoughts about this plan. Thank you for letting us know what is most important to you.

Still with horses, the Rodeo Grounds Master Plan initiative will be underway shortly. Council is expecting a draft report by the end of the year. The rodeo grounds are another Summerland recreational area that gets lots of love and attention by avid volunteers. Horse uses on Conkle Mountain Park were also incorporated in the recent parks bylaw change based on public feedback.

We often hear the African saying “it takes a whole village to raise a child.” Similarly, it takes committed and dedicated folks, including district staff, to foster a healthy community. We’re lucky. In Summerland, we have plenty of just those kinds of people. (This includes a certain staff person who quietly planted bulbs last fall so that visitors to Municipal Hall could enjoy splashes of bright colour in the grey days of late winter.)

Toni Boot is the mayor of Summerland.

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