As I understand it the Centennial Park was donated to be used as a park. Just because the town purchased it from the province for a nominal fee does not mean that the town should break from the original gift intent.
Treed parkland is the most socially valuable property in any community. Almost every community in Europe has a municipal campground. In France these are designated as ‘camping municipal’ and are similar to Oliver’s. They are almost always close to downtown. An example might be Chinon, population 8,000, a small town where Richard the Lionheart built a castle and also of Joan of Arc fame.
Like Oliver, commercial land in Chinon is scarce, but they would never do away with their beautiful campground along the river’s edge. Hotels are many but not large and like the B&Bs are all in town within walking distance to the sights and many restaurants. Like Oliver’s campground Chinon campers can also walk to all sights and restaurants. Big cities of Europe also have campgrounds. For example, Rome has three beautifully treed campgrounds, all within the inner city ring road.
Once land like Centennial Park is lost it can never be recovered. Oliver does need a hotel but the Centennial Park is not the place for one. At last count I noted 15 empty stores and lots in downtown Oliver. Oliver has an excellent industrial area supporting our agriculture. We also have good basic shopping sites and good camping facilities. It is the rural wine and farming areas that draw the tourists to this district. What Oliver does not have is a vision or dream or goal to make the town a tourist focus. The name ‘Wine Capital of Canada’ alone will not do it.
I have camped and used hotels from northern Alberta to Yucatan and from Sicily to northern Denmark. There is one noticeable difference between towns like Oliver and towns that are really successful in drawing tourists. That is that those communities that run the highway through the downtown are always failures; those that divert traffic away or around are invariably attractions. Who wants to eat with big trucks powering by making both noise and air pollution? Ped ways, ped streets, ped centres attract people and are always successful whether in Buenos Aires, Rome, Copenhagen and Chinon, or possibly Oliver.
It is the town council’s choice to work for the common good or choose a quick fix.
My recommendation would be to keep the Centennial Park as is with its accommodation for all the wonderful sporting, cultural, tourist and important gatherings, like when the firemen come to town. I myself stayed two months with my family in Centennial Park 20 years ago while waiting for my newly purchased property to become available. I was not the only one in the same situation.
James T Moore, Oliver