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Shawn Hathaway, from Oliver, says Parks Canada hasn’t been providing enough answers and isn’t engaging with local communities other than the Okanagan Nation Alliance. (Richard McGuire photo) By Richard McGuire

Special to the Chronicle

Parks Canada needs to do a much better job of consulting the public and explaining why a national park reserve is needed in the South Okanagan, says an Oliver man who calls himself an outdoor enthusiast.

“I’m an opponent of it right now as it stands because there haven’t been those answers,” says Shawn Hathaway. “They just made an announcement – that was it – with no real details.”

Hathaway, in his early 30s, has spoken up against the proposed park on social media and he’s contacted other park opponents.

But you’d be very wrong to simply dismiss his concerns as the grumblings of a stereotypical gun-toting redneck.

He’s thoughtful, well spoken and he’s tried to find the answers. He’s read the information on the Parks Canada website, read through the Canada National Park Act and he’s written to Parks Canada with probing questions.

But when he’s tried to follow up with Parks Canada to see when they’ll answer him, he’s received the runaround.

“I want to know the contact that my information is going to so that I can contact them and have them fill me in on what’s going on behind the scenes,” he said in a recent interview. “Are you answering me? Do you need more time? Can you give me some more detail?”

Hathaway has lived around Oliver off and on since 2003, but he’s originally from the Cariboo.

He doesn’t hunt but says he doesn’t begrudge those who do for food or other useful purposes.

“I’m a pretty avid hiker,” he said. “I’d probably say I’ve been on pretty much every trail from here to Vernon. I’m also a rock collector. I’m a general outdoor enthusiast, I guess you could say.”

When he posted a lengthy letter addressed to Parks Canada on the anti-park Facebook page ‘Locals Say No National Park Reserve,’ he received positive feedback.

There’s frustration in his letter.

“I have to say I am extremely put off by Parks Canada’s lack of inclusion of the public and communities in the NPR talks,” he wrote. “It appears all you are interested in is talking to the ONA (Okanagan Nation Alliance). Everyone else is just an afterthought or trivial in their concerns.”

The Osoyoos Times contacted Hathaway and agreed to seek answers from Parks Canada to summarized versions of some of his key questions. Parks Canada recently responded, but the answers lacking specifics left Hathaway unsatisfied.A fundamental question is the contradiction between protecting wildlife and encouraging visitors.“If you claim that these areas need protecting, then why are you promoting on your website ‘wide range of recreational and tourism opportunities like hiking, camping, bird watching and mountain biking?’” Hathaway wrote. “Since most of these currently do not happen in the proposed area already, why would you increase this? Is this not the very opposite of what you are claiming to want? Every single one of these, if promoted more, would increase the likelihood of damage, not decrease [it].”Parks Canada responded to the Osoyoos Times that in managing national parks, it maintains or restores ecological integrity and provides Canadians the opportunities to discover and enjoy them.“Canada’s national parks must integrate environmental protection with visitor experiences,” Parks Canada wrote. “The agency has successfully managed this balance and has worked toward integrity within parks while providing high-quality, meaningful visitor experiences.”Parks Canada has a development review and environmental assessment process to ensure development proposals meet established limits and that environmental integrity is maintained, the agency said.But […]

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