A public fundraising campaign to help purchase part of a south Okanagan beach to preserve it for public use has less than two weeks to meet its fundraising goal.
Residents of the village of Naramata are spearheading the fundraiser — which is aiming to collect $850,000 by the end of the month — to help buy part of a local beach and prevent it from being privately sold.
Supporters see it as a chance to maintain the Naramata Centre Beach, which is currently owned by a charity, for future generations.
“For over 70 years, the Naramata Centre Beach has been the place to jump off the dock, play in the sand and rest in the shade under the beautiful trees,” the Naramata Slow community group said on its fundraising website.
“We can’t imagine our children riding their bikes by Centre Beach five years from now saying, ‘Do you remember when there was a beach there and we would jump off the dock?'”
The fundraiser is part of a plan that would see the Naramata Centre Society sell the north portion of the beach to the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen (RDOS), along with three other lots in Naramata, for $1.7-million, explained Karla Kozakevich, the regional district board chair.
The plan is for the public fundraising to pay for at least half the $1.7-million price tag and the RDOS to cover the remaining amount, up to $850,000, through borrowing, Kozakevich said.
If the public sale doesn’t go through, the Naramata Centre Society, a charity that runs spiritual retreats, is expected to look for a private buyer for part of the beach.
“If these pieces sold that are right on the water I think it is extremely doubtful that we would ever see them come back to the community,” Kozakevich said.
“Whenever we see an opportunity pop-up to acquire more parkland and waterfront land for the community, I think we really are obligated to explore the options to see if we can make it happen.”
As of Sunday, the fundraiser had collected pledges for over $580,000.
That leaves the fundraiser just over two-thirds of the way to its $850,000 goal with less than two weeks to go until the fundraising deadline.
Kozakevich feels the fundraising is going “extremely well” and said there could be some wiggle room if the entire $850,000 wasn’t raised by Oct. 31.
If the $850,000 is raised through fundraising, the regional district would still need to get consent from the public to borrow the remaining funds before a sale could be finalized.
If the regional district does purchase the north part of the beach, an agreement would be put in place so that the public could use the whole beach, including the southern portion that would still be owned by Naramata Centre.
The local parks and recreation commission would look after both pieces of land and Naramata Centre could book the site for events just like other groups, Kozakevich said.
The regional district board chair said the deal would also include a stipulation that the RDOS would have the right of first refusal if the Naramata Centre Society wanted to sell more of the beach in the future.
The other three lots that are part of the proposed sale are at the corner of Ellis Road and Fourth Street and would be earmarked for a community hall, Kozakevich said.