Those hoping a large waterfront property in Vernon, B.C. might be purchased for public use got some good news this week.
The city’s mayor revealed, at a council meeting on Monday, that he has been contacted by BC Parks about the property, called Chelsea Estate, which is located on the shore of Okanagan Lake.
Mayor Victor Cumming said in an interview that the province told him they had been in contact with the realtor handling the sale and were now looking at the property again.
“It’s a real surprise to us and sometimes you get a surprise that is a nice surprise,” Cumming said.
“We really would encourage the province to look at it quite seriously.”
While the mayor said no decisions have been made, his remarks have given hope to those who want the province to buy the property for parkland.
Mike Brown started an online petition calling on the province to buy the 234-acre property and use it to expand nearby Ellison Provincial Park.
“Public land and lake access are very limited. We are not getting any more of it,” Brown said.
“Very few opportunities come around where we can have the chance to purchase and preserve access to lake property for the entire province.”
So far, over 20,000 people have signed his petition.
Brown said he was excited to hear BC Parks had contacted the mayor and is now more hopeful a public sale might actually happen.
Vernon’s chamber of commerce is also lobbying for the property to become parkland arguing it would help boost tourism.
“We’d love to see the expansion of (the) Ellison trail network which will be able to help bring Vernon to the forefront as a mountain biking and hiking destination and hopefully, in turn, help the economy,” Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce president Krystin Kempton said.
The city would like to see the adjacent provincial park expanded but is also interested in the land as a utility corridor and a fire escape route.
The province is not confirming whether BC Parks is looking at buying the property.
In response to a request for comment, the Environment Ministry sent the same statement that it supplied in September which said that BC Parks will consider the piece of land just as it would any other property proposed for a new park.
Turning the Chelsea Estate into a park is not the ideal result of the land sale for everyone.
One person who lives on the same dead-end street as the Chelsea Estate told Global News he would rather see it purchased for private use and had questions about how much traffic a park would bring to his street.
Vernon’s mayor said BC Parks and local leaders are expected to discuss the property in January.
“Hopefully, at that time, the province will be clearer about what their interests are,” Cumming said.