Anxious seniors who use the Okanagan Mission Activity Centre in Kelowna’s Lower Mission neighbourhood are desperately hoping for answers on the future of the facility.
“We are not able to get any definitive word from the city,” said Grace Egeland, president of the Okanagan Mission Senior Centre Society. “We would like to have something so that we can plan and we definitely want this place. We want it badly.”
The activity centre is in Sarsons Beach Park along Okanagan Lake. It was purchased by the city in 1973 and home to the Senior Centre Society ever since.
Egeland said fears among the facility’s users over its future are growing as the city moves ahead with building a new multi-generational activity centre between the H20 and Capital News centres.
“A number of years ago we were told that they were going to demolish it,” Egeland said. “I would find it very, very hard to not have this here.”
That’s a sentiment echoed by other seniors who use facility regularly.
“This building has for years and years has been here and it is used for everything,” said Betty Vogl.
“People do care about this place and we want to have a good future for it,” said Peter Kerr.
The City of Kelowna said decisions on the centre’s future will be made as it goes through the planning stages for the new activity centre next to H2O.
“It’s a great facility. It’s right on the lake, fantastic views and lots of great programs,” said Robert Parlane, the city’s manager of parks and buildings planning. “So as we go through this programming exercise, we’ll also be looking at the future for that building, and coming forward with recommendation to council sometime in the new year.”
Parlane said the city is well aware of how loved the Sarsons Beach facility is but could not say at this point what its future looks like.
“It’s an older building but like I say it’s in a great location and we know it is very popular with a lot of people so all of that will be part of the decision making on it,” Parlane said when asked if building could be demolished.
According to the Centre Senior Society the nearly 75-year-old building is the only public building on the lake that’s for rent and is often used for weddings, birthday parties, and reunions.
Egeland said it’s an asset to the whole community. She added that many seniors live in small apartments and the picturesque setting of the centre offers a mental health boost.
“People come in here and you see them and as they come in…the smiles…” she said pausing as she tears up.
Egeland said the seniors are willing to fundraise to help with any costs to keep the facility running but can’t start until they know more about what the city plans to do.
“Some of the people have already said they will be laying in front of the bulldozers and they will be setting up chairs for those of us who can’t lay down on the ground.” Egeland said.
In the meantime, the city is holding information sessions about the new activity centre it plans to build next to H2o as well as one it will construct in Glenmore as part of its “Building a Stronger Kelowna” initiative to boost recreation and leisure facilities across the city.
Parlane said the purpose is to get public feedback on what kind of uses and amenities people would like to see.
“We are trying to get input from the public as to the types of uses they want for these facilities,” Parlane said. “People can go online on the get involved page and submit but the open houses are a chance for the public to meet the staff and have discussions.”
The Glenmore-focused Information Session will take place Wednesday, Nov. 29, 3:30 – 6 p.m., Green Gables Daycare* (228 Valley Road).
The Mission-focused Information Session is slated for Thursday, Nov. 30, 3:30 – 6 p.m., Capital News Centre Lobby (4105 Gordon Drive).