I am a proponent of the proposed national park reserve, but unfortunately I have been mostly reticent in my support, except for some letters to Parks Canada and a few government agencies in the early stages of the feasibility study.
A short while ago, I came across my copy of the 2008 winter newsletter of the Okanagan Similkameen Parks Society, which contains an article by Don Gayton, of Summerland, wherein Mr. Gayton writes the following prophetic words in relation to the national park – quiet support is meaningless. Active, vocal support and persistent support, even by small minorities, is what politicians respond to.
I wish that everyone (including myself), who silently supported the national park reserve, had erected huge signs on their property and slapped bumper stickers on their cars, saying Yes National Park, and otherwise made their opinion known.
For that reason, I have recently written to both the Premier and the Minister of Environment, setting forth my arguments in favour of the proposed park. I hope that all hitherto quiet proponents of the national park reserve will also take action.
In order for the park to become a reality, we have to send the provincial government such a barrage of letters, emails, telephone calls, etc., that they cannot ignore our point of view.
We have reached a major crossroads on the bumpy highway leading to the objective of a national park, and if we hope to attain our goal, all supporters of the park have to make some noise.
Parks Canada has worked long and hard on the national park proposal, and many of the seemingly insurmountable obstacles that initially faced the projective been overcome by compromise, concession and the redefining of boundaries.
The park would be a refuge of scenic beauty and solitude, rich in diverse plants, animals and birds, and a place to renew and uplift the spirit.
It would protect the area from destructive practices such as vehicular hill climbing and mud bogging, bush parties and the high risk of wildfire associated with them, the illegal dumping of garbage, yard waste, old appliances, furniture, etc., and a host of other misuses.
The national park would also prove to be an invaluable asset to the economy of the South Okanagan and Similkameen, because of its capability to generate business and job opportunities.
All this has been reiterated time and again, but the opponents to the park continue their clamour against it.
I appreciate to a degree the concern of some of the opposition, as they genuinely fear that their livelihood will be impacted by the national park.
However, I have no empathy whatsoever for most of the naysayers, who consist of four-wheel drive and ATV operators and hunters, whose mindset is that they have always enjoyed unrestricted use of the region, free of charge, and this should and must be their right in perpetuity.
My family moved to Oliver in 1966; and at that time, the rare pocket desert still covered a substantial portion of the valet floor.
Today the aforesaid ecosystem has been reduced to scattered fragments by interminable agricultural, commercial, industrial and residential development.
The same fate awaits the representative area of the unique and endangered grasslands that Parks Canada proposes to preserve.
Once this territory is taken over by private enterprise, it will be forever lost to the public, and that includes the naysayers to the national park.
Sharron J. Zuehkle