National park opponents bring issues online

KEREMEOS — A Keremeos resident is taking the South Okanagan – Similkameen National Park issue online.

Arlene Arlow works as a bookkeeper but over the last 18 months, she’s been building a website during her spare time.

“I have no vested interest in the ranching industry, that’s why I think someone like me is in a good position to start a website because I have nothing to lose, nothing to gain,” she says.

Arlow says a national park would put ranchers’ livelihoods at risk, believing the cattle industry is more stable than tourism.

“In my opinion the farming and ranching are key. Tourism indeed brings millions of dollars to the Southern Interior every year, but that’s only a three-month window.”

Doreen Olson with the South Okanagan – Similkameen National Park Network welcomes the idea of the new website because it’s generating discussion.

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“I think it’s good for everyone to understand how everyone is feeling. I hope they’ve read our website, too,” says Olson.

The province re-opened talks of a national park last month and is now seeking public input.

The B.C. government is proposing to make the regions west of Okanagan Falls and west of Osoyoos part of the national park, while preserving the area between Cawston and Oliver as a conservancy.

The province says those regions are home to a wide variety of plants and animals, and contains many of the world’s red and blue-listed species.

Arlow says a national park isn’t needed because many of the areas already have protected designations. But supporters say national park status will provide greater protection.

“They’re provincial protected areas, so there’s still a lot things that are needed to work with these species to keep them viable and the province just doesn’t have the funding to do that,” says Olson.

A national park is also meant to bring visitors to the valley, but Arlow argues it doesn’t guarantee an economic boost.

“[Supporters] are saying the park will bring tourists but they’re saying there’s going to be no amenities up on the mountain, so how are you going to bring tourists if there’s nothing to do?”

“People from around the world visit national parks,” says Olson. “The government of Canada and Parks Canada promote visitors from around the world to these places.”

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There’s 40 more days for people to leave their comments on a national park proposal.  Responses are due October 12, 2015.

B.C. Parks will review the comments and provide its recommendations in early 2016.


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