LETTER: Summerland would benefit from national park

The quest for a South Okanagan-Similkameen National Park has been grinding on for 10 years.

Dear Editor:

Not to trivialize the insanity of constructing tall buildings in a gully over a spring, but there is another land use issue that also deserves our attention.

The quest for a South Okanagan-Similkameen National Park has been grinding on for 10 years. Summerlanders need to get behind it because we stand to benefit from it.

It’s good for our souls to save a little bit of land for other species to live on; Thoreau said, “In wildness is the preservation of the world.”

Our greed for land needs to recognize its limits. That being said, there are also considerable economic benefits to be had from the establishment of a national park.

In a 2011 study entitled “Economic Benefits to Local Communities from National Park Visitation,” effects were felt as far away as 60 miles (96km) from a park’s boundary; Summerland is certainly within that range.

Local visits made up only 29 per cent of total park visits—and contributed less than 10 per cent of the spending involved.

More than half of the non-local park visitors stayed overnight, and 89 per cent of those overnight stays were outside the parks: in hotels and motels, bed and breakfasts, campgrounds and private homes. (Yes, we probably would have more summer visitors.)

Half of their spending was on lodging and meals, but the other half was on transportation, groceries, recreation and entertainment, souvenirs and gifts, so the investment from outside the region was widely distributed.

The study found, moreover, that for every dollar in direct sales, another 43 cents was earned through secondary effects.

What would attract South Okanagan-Similkameen National Park visitors to Summerland?

Most vacation trips that include a national park are multi-purpose: people today are looking for a variety of experiences.

We can offer good golfing, swimming and beaches, rides on the KVR, winery tours, farm tours, and the finest ornamental gardens in the interior. We have interesting restaurants and places to stay.

Once visitors are here they will visit the museum and browse the shops and farmers’ markets for unique local products including art and crafts, maple syrup, vinegars and oils, soaps, clothing, and the list goes on.

There will be employment opportunities as well, not only in the businesses mentioned above, but also in the park itself.

Artists and craftspeople could display their wares in the park’s visitors’ centre. Musicians could perform at park-sponsored events.

Naturalists could lead guided tours of the park’s flora (once it recovers from the current wear and tear) or on our local historical trails. Creative thinkers will find opportunities as yet unimagined.

Let’s let our leaders know that we are a pro-development community: Summerland supports the development of a South Okanagan-Similkameen National Park.

Kathryn McCourt