The men behind the proposed Oliver riverfront park fear that if the Town doesn’t move quickly, the idea may never get off the ground.
But recently council agreed to dedicate staff time to study options for the proposal. However, it was a tough sell to Municipal Manager Tom Szalay.
When council suggested that staff work on some options, Szalay raised a concern about added workload for an already-overwhelmed department.
He referred to the initiative brought forward by Murray Soder and Bill Ross, who are proposing the Town seek tenure on land to accommodate a linear park with fitness stations along both sides of Okanagan River from drop structures 11 to13.
The Town is currently waiting for land tenure and funding to pave a section of the east walkway from Fairview bridge to drop structure 13. This project is expected to begin next spring.
Councillor Jack Bennest said the Town has no funding or grants to do anything beyond this paving project. He voiced his support for the riverfront park, but said the Town needs to slow down and get all parties on the same page.
But Ross said he fears the park won’t see the light of day if council doesn’t move forward soon by applying for tenure from the provincial government.
“Once the momentum is gone (it’s gone),” Ross said.
He noted they are willing to develop the park in consultation with Parks and Recreation manager Bob Grant.
“We’re basically in limbo,” Soder said, adding that without a commitment from the Town, there is no use in moving forward.
Ross and Soder have spent more than 300 hours and $1,000 on the proposal so far.
“If everyone thinks this is apple pie and ice cream, let’s do it,” Ross said.
He noted if this is going to be done politically, it has to be done before the coming election.
Councillor Linda Larson asked why Oliver Parks and Recreation can’t make the application for tenure.
Szalay said since the Town is already embarking on the paving project, it will be an uphill battle to do more than that. He agreed with Larson that Parks and Recreation should apply for tenure from the provincial government.
Councillor Dave Mattes said Parks and Recreation has no authority on the pathway other than mowing it. He made a motion that council work with Soder and Ross to develop a plan on the long-term implications of such a park. He pointed out that a tenure application from the Town would carry more weight than one submitted by Parks and Recreation.
Ross said the Town’s tenure application for paving the east walkway should encompass the riverfront proposal too.
Councillor Maureen Doerr and Bennest agreed that Area C (rural Oliver) needs to be involved in the discussion.
Szalay reminded council that it still has other outstanding priorities on the back burner, adding the Town has lost a senior staff member and will lose another staff member as part of the recent operational (core) review.
“Council has directed staff not to work extra hours, but you’re adding another project . . . there is so much waiting to get done,” Szalay said.
The municipal manager stated if staff end up working with Soder and Ross on this project, they’ll be taking on new roles as park designers.
Mattes said council is not asking staff to throw everything aside and make this the Town’s number one priority . . . “just give us options.”
Ross said if people really support the park concept they should email the mayor at email@example.com.
The concept features various “par-course” activity stations along the park’s route (1.6 miles on each side of the river). These stations could include exercise bars, push-up stands and sit-up benches.
Soder and Ross hope that grant money from Interior Health and life insurance companies could help pay for the par-course equipment. It is also proposed that local contractors be utilized on a volunteer basis to help build the park.
Ross said they have already received offers of donations from some people. They also have individuals ready to sit on the steering committee, the wellness committee and the habitat committee.