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Chamber urges government to make parkland acquisition a priority

VERNON – The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce is urging the provincial government to embrace a vision that expands Ellison Provincial Park, protects the environment and drives the economy.
On July 9, the Chamber received a letter from B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman indicating that B.C. Parks has considered the Chelsea Estate, which is currently listed for sale, but that the ministry does not have the budget for such an acquisition and there are competing interests B.C. Parks must consider.
“We fully understand limited budgets and competing priorities as our members – business owners and non-profits – experience the same challenges on a daily basis. But while there is a monetary price to acquiring the Chelsea Estate, there is a price if we do nothing, particularly as our province faces climate change and much of the Okanagan’s natural ecosystem is considered sensitive,” said Krystin Kempton, Greater Vernon Chamber president, in a response to Minister Heyman.
“There is also a significant cost if there aren’t investments in economic development. In the case of adding the Chelsea Estate to Ellison Provincial Park, it would further the North Okanagan’s reputation as a tourism destination as mountain biking and hiking are increasingly popular with visitors. The North Okanagan and the province can only benefit from the spinoff benefits of acquiring this property.”
The Chamber also believes that protecting this location along Okanagan Lake will bolster the province’s relationship with the Syilx people, who have called this valley home for generations.
“In his letter, the Minister states that, ‘Should other significant contributors to this acquisition be identified, B.C. Parks remains prepared to discuss ways in which this property could be acquired for public benefit.’ We would urge Minister Heyman to immediately direct B.C. Parks staff to proactively seek out potential partners such as public and private foundations and government at all levels,” said Kempton.

“In fact, partnerships between B.C. Parks, foundations and all levels of government have made other provincial parks possible in the North Okanagan. It is also necessary to keep communications open with the property owner.

“Ultimately, what is required is a vision of what can be achieved not only for the North Okanagan but for all British Columbians now and in the future. Opportunities of a lifetime only surface occasionally and that means we must use all measures possible to bring them to reality,” said Kempton.

The Chamber has pledged to assist the government to identify potential partners and to establish connections that result in Ellison Provincial Park being expanded.

Richard Rolke, Communications Coordinator    
Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce   
E:  P: 250.545.0771