By Lyonel Doherty
Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer got an earful from national park opponents in Oliver Wednesday night.
Approximately 100 people who oppose the park showed up at Frank Venables Theatre where Scheer held a meet-and-greet with supporters.
The politician sat down with members of the Grassland Park Review Coalition to hear their concerns.
Willowbrook resident Rick Knodel handed Scheer a mini “no national park” sign, saying (with a laugh) that it was a gift.
Knodel said a national park reserve would have a significant impact on any adjacent land, including Willowbrook. One of the biggest concerns, he said, is fire hazard and how that will affect adjacent communities. Another concern is the pressure that a park would have on local ranching operations, such as grazing, Knodel said.
He pointed out that if adjacent lands interfere with the park in any way, that falls under the jurisdiction of Parks Canada to protect its assets.
Knodel also mentioned that at least one hunter relies on local game for sustenance; yet another impact the park would have on residents since hunting is not permitted in national reserves.
After listening to people’s consternations, Scheer said there needs to be proper consultation before the park idea moves ahead.
Knodel said he was impressed with Scheer who was non-committal but willing to seek out the facts.
Speaking on behalf of rural Oliver, the Area C alternate director also talked to Scheer about securing federal funding for the $10 million Gallagher Lake siphon repair job. The Town of Oliver has already been given funding assurance ($5 million) from the province, but hasn’t heard from the federal government yet.
Knodel said another rock slide at Gallagher Lake could prove devastating to the irrigation system this summer.
He said it is ironic that the federal government is willing to put millions of dollars into a national park but not a ‘bread-and-butter” project.
Another issue that Knodel talked to Scheer about was the importance of cleaning up the milfoil in Vaseux Lake.