By Richard McGuire
Special to the Chronicle
Parks Canada has appointed Sarah Boyle as the new project manager for the proposed South Okanagan national park reserve and she has begun meeting stakeholders.
“In the coming weeks, Sarah will be introducing herself to the various stakeholders, organizations and others interested in the South Okanagan project,” Parks Canada said in an emailed statement.
Boyle is a conservation biologist currently based in Revelstoke.
Most recently, she worked in the Rouge National Urban Park in the Greater Toronto Area where she led the planning and implementation of its long-term wetland and riparian area restoration program.
In that role, she worked with local farmers within the Rouge National Urban Park.
The Rouge Park was cited by federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna as an example of a park outside the traditional mould where different interests were brought together.
“We worked to create Rouge National Urban Park where we brought together environmentalists and farmers,” McKenna said last October when she announced her government’s plan to move forward with a national park reserve in the South Okanagan. “It’s not impossible, because everyone cares about the land.”
Some park supporters have suggested that lessons can be applied to the Okanagan from the experience at Rouge Park where a non-traditional park was developed by thinking outside the box.
That park has its own federal legislation separate from the Canada National Parks Act.
Boyle is seen by one park supporter as someone who will take a collaborative approach.
“I found her very down to earth,” said Doreen Olson, coordinator of the pro-park South Okanagan Similkameen National Park Network, who met with Boyle recently. “She knows about farming. She has worked with a lot of different people in the Rouge Park in Ontario. I think she’s going to be able to really communicate with local people here.”
MP Richard Cannings, who has long been urging the federal government to appoint someone to address concerns in the local community, said he’s very pleased with the appointment.
“All along its been my message to Parks Canada and especially to Catherine McKenna, the minister, saying we need people like Sarah on the ground to talk to people and answer their concerns,” said Cannings, who has often had to play the role of addressing misconceptions himself. “I’m happy that anyone is here frankly.”
Cannings said he recently met with Boyle.
“I was impressed,” he said. “She seemed very open-minded with what she wanted to come and talk to people about. I think they (governments) are set on creating a park, but they want to talk to the various interest groups about issues. There are all sorts of issues that have been raised in the last eight months or so since this announcement was made. I think she’s keen on talking to people about them, and perhaps trying to allay some fears.”
Some park opponents say Boyle has already been in contact with them, but they haven’t met.
Parks Canada told the Osoyoos Times an interview with Boyle isn’t possible at this time because she is just settling into the new position.
Boyle has worked with Parks Canada since 2004 in varying roles across Western and Northern Canada, including Wapusk National Park at Churchill, Manitoba, Kootenay Nation Park in eastern B.C., and Mount Revelstoke and Glacier National Parks east of Revelstoke.
She has studied bats in caves at Glacier National Park, wolverines in the same park, and caribou at Mount Revelstoke.