$400K still needed to save beloved Naramata beach

Fight to save beloved beach

The clock is ticking for a Naramata fundraiser aiming to purchase a beloved local beach from its private owner, to be preserved as public for posterity. 

Miranda Halliday, one of the owners of Elephant Island Winery, is a driving force behind Naramata Slow, a community group hoping to help buy Centre Beach before it is potentially sold to a private developer. 

The beach and a total of 23 acres in the village are currently owned by the Naramata Centre.

"They have been really large landowners in the village for over 70 years and their business model is changing, as is normal," Halliday said, explaining she learned at a meeting last year that some of their plans involved selling off real estate parcels. 

"It came up that they might look at selling one of their lots on the beach, part of what is now known as Centre Beach. So we approached them and said 'Hey, would you guys be interested in having the community acquire and manage the plot?'"

The Naramata Centre was receptive and eager, and Halliday and the rest of Naramata Slow got to work trying to raise money. 

Local Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen director Karla Kozakevich was looped into the talks and agreed it would be a shame to lose that beachfront.

"The Centre owns the land and they don't have to allow the community to use that park and that beachfront, they could have fenced it off, it's their private land,  but they have always allowed access," Kozakevich explained.

"They have been wonderful members of the community for 70 years ... they didn't want to have to sell it to a private individual to put up a house, potentially." 

The RDOS is working on terms, and while an iron-clad purchase agreement is not in place yet, when it is, it will be subject to the fundraising being successful. The RDOS might then agree to borrow the balance of the purchase price, $1.7 million, to bring the parcel of land into its existing parks responsibilities. 

But time is running out to raise the $850,000 necessary, with an Oct. 31 deadline looming. 

"The Centre has been working with us for quite a while now, so obviously they have a finite timeline they have before moving forward in one way or another," Halliday said. "We committed to letting them know by that deadline."

Halliday describes the beach and park parcel as part of the heart of the community. 

"This year out of any it became so evident how important public outdoor space is, just with COVID and people getting outside," she explained.

"This represents one of the last undeveloped lakefront lots in the village ... they aren't making any more lakefront. To have this remain as a place we can gather as a community is key."

Donations can be made online here or dropped off in person or mailed to the RDOS with a note indicating it is for the "Naramata Beach acquisition project," along with a name and address for that tax receipt if desired.

All funds will be held in trust by the RDOS and returned if the project does not move forward. 

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