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Penticton  

Q&A planned for Nat'l Park

With under one month to go in the official public consultation period for the proposed South Okanagan National Park, the South Okanagan Similkameen Preservation Society will be bringing its questions and concerns to Parks Canada at a question and answer meeting in Oliver next week. 

The meeting will be open to members of groups who uses the area proposed as a park, a distinction from a truly public meeting that SOSPS member Tony Acland finds frustrating. He had hoped for a debate-style open forum to help inform those who haven't made up their mind, rather than just people from the 'no' coalition. 

"But all those people already know where we stand. It's the general public that doesn't understand," Acland said. 

The SOSPS believes in protecting the area, but without the interference of the federal government. They, along with members from Parks Canada, BC Wildlife Federation and the Grasslands Coalition, will prepare short presentations and then open the floor for questions. 

The proposed park has been a contentious issue this year, with project manager Sarah Boyle presenting an update to the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen board on Thursday to some backlash. 

"What concerns me is the allowable uses and everything and all these things you're saying will continue...in my experience in the last 100, 200 years the federal government can't be trusted their word," Area B Cawston director George Bush said.

He cited the experiences over the years of First Nations with treaties and reservations, and broken promises. 

"The one government says 'Yeah we'll do this,' then 10 years or 20 years or 50 years later another government comes along and squashes all that," Bush said. 

He said he's in favour of protecting the land in other ways, but that this would take away too much agricultural land.

"This is all food producing land as far as our people that live there are concerned," Bush said. "And it's going to be lost. It's a major concern, we talk about food sovereignty all the time, and we're losing it."

Boyle said feedback of all kinds is what they are looking for throughout the process, and that the park is not a done deal. 

"This public consultation will be a part of what helps to inform ultimately the ministers of environment for both British Columbia and the federal environment minister on next steps," she said. 

Tuesday's meeting will take place from 6:45 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Oliver Community Centre. Feedback can be provided to the national park committee online here

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