IT WAS ALMOST a decade ago while contemplating a move to Kamloops that my sons and I first visited Riverside Park. They splashed and splattered at the waterpark and we had a watermelon picnic afterwards while taking in the view.
Since we moved here, we have visited the park countless times whether for Canada Day celebrations, Remembrance Day ceremonies, or for the charming Music in the Park nights. Other times we would just take our ice cream to the park to enjoy.
On Tuesday, the City council will be presented with a proposal by Tourism Kamloops to open Riverside Park to commercialization, for the summer of 2021 to start with, which will include recreational watersport equipment rental and food and beverage services.
If you don’t remember being consulted about this it is because there was no public consultation on the matter, which needless to say, is not a good thing given the importance of Riverside Park to the whole community.
There will be bikes, kayaks, and paddleboards and possibly water bikes, too, available to rent. While I would take any quiet watercraft over the noisy motorboats and SeaDoos that are already slashing the South Thompson every which way (never mind the missing life jackets, which is a recurrent and irresponsible thing to do), there are a few issues that arise.
Safety for one. Kayaking on a river is a different matter than on a lake. Will everyone renting a paddleboard, or a kayak know how to recover themselves if they get dumped? Will everyone be able to get back up the river if they happen to take the easy way down? Paddling upstream is not as easy it may look.
Also, the downtown businesses that are but steps away from Riverside Park would have to deal with competition at a time when many are struggling as is due to COVID and have seen their revenues dwindle to mere survival levels following the recent restrictions imposed by provincial health authority. They need all the support they can get.
Sure, some people will stay loyal to their preferred businesses while out for a leisurely afternoon, but convenience and curiosity will make many others visit the new stands.
For many people, young families included, that reside in the downtown or close by, the park is a joyful place to spend a couple of hours on a summer day. The only park of this kind to visit on a nice summer day. Commercialization of nature spaces such as Riverside park will bring more car traffic and that means more noise and a lower air quality.
As always, the question remains: what are we to win, and what are we to lose by adopting such a plan? Attracting new residents is not a strong argument given that there is always an active growth happening with many (mostly Lower Mainland residents) relocating to Kamloops.
The importance of having a beautiful park (we have but three in Kamloops at the moment) that offers a refuge from the hustle and bustle of the city to the community members cannot be overstated.
Commercializing it for the summer of 2021 (with the possibility of extending the contract and even modifying the Parks and Public Lands bylaw in the future) will transform it in ways that mean one thing: Riverside Park, an attractive feature of our city will be but another space tranquility would have been chased out of by commercial development.
Please share your thoughts on the matter by reaching out to the Council during the meeting scheduled for tomorrow, Tuesday, May 18. You can participate via Zoom by following this link, or share your thoughts during the public inquiries portion of the meeting starts at approximately 1.30pm. You can reach the Council by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.