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GINTA – Our city parks deserve better than to be commercialized

(Image: Wikimedia Commons)

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 citycouncil@kamloops.ca.

Daniela Ginta is a mother, scientist, writer and blogger. She can be reached at daniela.ginta@gmail.com, or through her blog at http://www.thinkofclouds.com.

About Mel Rothenburger (8243 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

7 Comments on GINTA – Our city parks deserve better than to be commercialized

  1. Kathryn H. // May 19, 2021 at 1:30 PM // Reply

    There is much to consider on this topic, suggesting that there is no simple resolution to the competing views of Kamloops residents. Of course It is wonderful to be able to enjoy Riverside Park when it is not too busy and a quiet spot can be found for those who prefer that. On the other hand, there seem to be many more people who will turn up in droves for events such as nightly Music in the Park performances, Art in the Park/Canada Day festivities or Ribfest. Anyone who doesn’t like crowds should avoid that park on those big event days.

    I can’t speak for Tourism Kamloops, but I presume their priority is our tourism operators. Those businesses would benefit from more opportunities for visitors to our city who, I have heard, may stop here on the way through but don’t think there is much to do here in Kamloops and do not stay.

    I would have to agree that our river may not be best place for some of the suggested water sports. Local residents who are competent in a kayak or on a paddleboard probably have their own. Tourists are unlikely to try these sports for the first time on the river but might rent if they have experience. Food and beverage service in the park is an important aspect providing a good experience. If the equipment rental and/or food service operations are not viable, they will not last.

    In this most unusual circumstance of a global pandemic, I don’t see a downside to a pilot project to determine whether or not there are some good ideas that work for everyone and make our city even more vibrant.

  2. And yet, when a few local entrepreneurs with food trucks asked to set up on a limited bases near the park, their were given a major cold shoulder by the same City’s staff now allegedly in favour to a food service available in the park.
    Go figure!
    I certainly would not support motorized personal watercraft rentals and I would think paddleboards and kayaks to be quite a liability given the strong currents in that area of the river. Seems like they want it to be like Kelowna-by-the-lake but unfortunately we ain’t got a nice lake right where it would be convenient to have one.

  3. On the opposite side of this column and other commentors here, is the simple reality that people are people; if there is healthy activity rentals available and well placed food accessibility … more people will use the park … full stop. That is an undeniable fact.

    How often does one drive or walk by and see a literal ghost town, outside of the kiddie play space, tennis players, runners and walkers? Obviously the midst of summer sees a general large uptick of beach and open space use, especially on the weekend or on special or festival days where stuff is happening. Beyond that, more often or not, it is under utilised.
    We have to ask why.

    People go where there is stuff to do, that is the programming of today’s world. You can deny it, you can argue it, you can reject it, but it is a cultural fact in our society. To outright ignore that in a town where access to Riverside park for an overwhelming % of residents requires a drive, bus ride or marathon walk, it becomes easy to say that Riverside Park is ‘for downtown residents’.

    Ms. Ginta actually says, quote: ‘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. Commercialisation of nature spaces such as Riverside park will bring more car traffic and that means more noise and a lower air quality.’

    In other words; We downtown’ers don’t want outside resident to use ‘our’ park. They will be noisy and damage our air quality. Think about that for a second.

    Even though that was likely not her intent … that is what she said, so a lot of her perspective needs to be considered as community protectionist against all other tax payers who don’t live near her park.

    The layout and location of the park is unusually far from amenities, making it a ‘destination park’ for most, not a ‘step out the door’ middle of the world part of our streetscape. So there is an argument towards drawing increased use, by providing what people want, therefore need, to decide to go there.

    Now I am not saying to dress the entire park in full outright florescent light commercialisation, turning it from a park into a commercial market hub, as that would be ridiculous as well as a commercial failure. But there is a valid conversation for drawing people … thats all Kamloops residents who pay for it … in to use the park more with incentives like rental bikes and a hot dog … if its tastefully and seamlessly incorporated into the space, with the prime design towards green space.

    I will agree that self-propelled watercraft rental is just a dumb idea on a river like this, and a potential legal quagmire for the City (imagine the 10 year old stranded on Rabbit Island). That should be specifically regulated out.

    Overall this does not need to be ‘a slippery slope’ if designed and limited well, and because accessibility to the park for a vast % of the populous means distance, yes … there will be increased vehicles and therefore parking issues, and air quality concerns will be a reality … but if we want all city residents to use their own park, we need to accept those.

    At this stage, as the City is considering this, if they decide that everything should stay the way it is, they are actually agreeing with Ginta and telling non-downtown residents that Riverside Park is not for their use. Not good optics.

    • If additional businesses were allowed to locate in Riverside Park, they would be mostly frequented on hot summer days when the park is already busy. There is no more need to draw more people to Riverside on those days — it’s full enough!

      If people are coming to Riverside Park as a “destination” with the specific intent to rent a bike or kayak, then they can just as easily shift their destination somewhere else where those services are available.

      I don’t live close enough to Riverside Park to just wander over there — it’s also a “destination outing” for me — but when I go there, I appreciate it as an oasis of quiet close to the bustling downtown. The space available for families to play frisbee and enjoy a picnic is not actually huge.

      Rentals bikes should be located downtown — there’s a lot of empty space there! Vancouver doesn’t allow bike rentals in Stanley Park — you have to get them on Denman Street and ride into the park. I’ve done that — and then spent a few bucks at the businesses located alongside the bike rental places.

      Adding new food services in the park will not draw new visitors, but will likely shift them from the downtown area where the dollars they spend are sorely needed right now.

      There’s nothing wrong with Riverside Park as it is. It’s a lovely, family-friendly green space in the middle of our city. Let’s not mess with a good thing.

  4. Ian MacKenzie // May 17, 2021 at 1:12 PM // Reply

    With our kids and their kids and their kids again growing up using that park for picnics, family birthday parties, and all things requiring space and lack of bustle I can see the commercialization of all our parks, particularly Riverside with its lovely trees and swimming beach, as being a betrayal of what all residents of Kamoops want it to be. After the several singular attempts in the past to take up more of the greenery, all of which have been rejected by the citizenry, why is Tourism Kamloops trying to change this invaluable piece of greenbordered foreshore of peace and quiet into a market square? And even more disturbing is why our city is supporting them. I do not pretend to know whether our indigenous cousins consider it sacred land, but I consider it hallowed at the very least. The original park has been chopped up already in various ways that limit the green. Stop, I say, before we have nothing left for the spirit. I am not against sharing it with the odd tourist to use as a spiritual recharging station, but it is for the citizens of Kamloops first and foremost. LET IT BE!

  5. Mel Formanski // May 17, 2021 at 10:45 AM // Reply

    I totally agree, leave our parks alone. Riverside is the most peaceful of the 3 parks we have left. Pioneer is party central, and Mac Island has been ruined by the folks camping at the back and the disc golfers trampling the greenery in what was once a peaceful, green, unspoiled area. Our river is not the safest with harsh currents and undertows and the jolly riders who take out watercraft will have to be rescued repeatedly; Leave the park alone and let us enjoy it in peace and quiet.
    M Formanski

  6. Commercialising of parks, whether urban, provincial or national, is obscenely contrary to their initial intended purposes. They were and are intended as places of pastoral peace in an otherwise cement world. Leave them as such.

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