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  • Writer's pictureRiley Gettens

Who Pays for the Park?

Funding Public Spaces in Area F


May 7, 2024


A potential play park initiative has taken a first step in Faulder and Meadow Valley, and renovations are underway at Mariposa Park in Greater West Bench. I have heard from citizens curious to know how public spaces are acquired and maintained (who pays). 


LAND FOR PLAYGROUNDS and PARK SPACE


Typically, land for public playgrounds and park space is either donated by citizens or secured through agreements with developers and the Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS). Mark Woods, the Senior Community Services Manager at RDOS, illuminates the history of parks in Area F.


Mariposa and Selby Parks (Greater West Bench) originated from subdivisions linked to the Veterans Land Act (VLA) development (1952 and 1957). The West Bench Irrigation District initially dedicated these parks and later transferred them to the RDOS.


Mariposa Park's naming history is a bit of a mystery (other than a possible reference to the fruit). Selby Park was dedicated to Eric Selby in 1963, honouring his role as the first Veteran to select a lot as part of the VLA process (1952). Mr. Selby was the District Manager/Water Bailiff when the West Bench Irrigation District was first established. 


The public Bud Butler Equestrian Arena is on the Selby Park parcel. In the same era that the park was dedicated, Bud Butler, a local citizen, volunteered to build a public arena and purchased the posts, rails, and irrigation supplies. Mr. Butler organized a working bee with Bob Jenkins, who also volunteered to construct the riding arena for the community. Bob's daughter, Sue Gibbons, still lives on the West Bench and is one of the active volunteers who helps maintain the arena today. 


The Bonin family donated land in 2010, creating a new park, Bonin Park. In 2011, the land was subdivided from the parent parcel and gifted to the RDOS. The formal dedication occurred on November 1, 2011. Mr. Bonin was also part of the VLA. 


Citizen donations are crucial for expanding public spaces. While donated land has yet to materialize in Faulder/Meadow Valley or North Beach, Crown Land could be utilized pending a shared-use agreement with the province in rural Summerland. This first step (preliminary application) is in progress, and the RDOS anticipates hearing back from the province within a year. More information on the Faulder/Meadow Valley park is here.


FUNDING PARK MAINTENANCE


Regional Districts levy taxes through service areas. Some service areas, such as water systems, have clearly defined users, like ratepayers who receive water from the West Bench Water System or the Faulder Water System.


A portion of property taxes collected from Area F properties (see graph below) funds park maintenance and recreation within Area F. A portion also goes into reserve funds for future repairs and unexpected costs. If the project works out in Faulder/Meadow Valley (the province agrees, the citizens support it, and the logistics make sense), the new park will become part of the assets under the care of the RDOS and paid for by all of Area F.


INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT


Park infrastructure (benches, playground equipment, etc.) is rarely paid for through direct property taxation. Instead, rural areas rely on the Federal Gas Tax Fund or provincial grants (generally taxes paid by citizens elsewhere). To qualify for a grant, a project must be shovel-ready (at an advanced enough stage of development for building to begin).


The Area F Parks Commission started planning the Mariposa upgrade six to seven years ago. The project has been shovel-ready since 2021. When the recent Growing Communities Fund was announced in 2023, the Mariposa project qualified. In Faulder and Meadow Valley, shovel-ready requires a shared-use agreement with the province, confirmed citizen support, building plans in place, and an approved estimate.


This graph shows property taxes for Area F Parks based on property assessment.

Here is a link that explains what programs and services property taxes fund.


As always, please contact me if you have questions. Also, please let me know if you have Area F Parks history to share, and I will update this post.


Thank you for reading.

Riley

Riley Gettens, Director Area "F" RDOS

250-488-0246





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