Residents of the Krestova area in the southern Slocan Valley may soon have a new regional park on their doorstep – if they can raise nearly half a million dollars in the next six weeks.
The Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) announced on August 18 it had agreed to buy 134 acres of land in the Krestova area for a new regional park.
The regional government will put up $250,000 of the $870,000 asking price for the property. A news release from the RDCK said an anonymous donor had also contributed $145,000 towards the purchase.
That leaves $475,000 to be raised to complete the deal, which has an October 5 deadline – giving residents of Area H just under a month and a half to raise the funds.
“This property, although it was privately owned, has been used by the local community as an outdoor recreation area and a place for residents to enjoy the historic and cultural attributes of the property,” said RDCK Board Vice-Chair and Electoral Area H Director Walter Popoff, in announcing a contribution of $250,000 from the Area H Community Development Fund for the purchase. “The property is now for sale and as the director for the area, the community reached out and requested that the RDCK consider purchasing the property for regional park purposes.
“To achieve this, with community support we still have to raise $475,000.”
Residents of Krestova, located just south of Crescent Valley, will meet in the next week or so to discuss the purchase and plan fundraising efforts.
Community Development Funds
Popoff’s contribution of $250,000 is one of the largest single grants ever made under the RDCK’s Community Development Grant Program. The program is funded by grants in lieu of taxes from utility companies, and provides each RDCK electoral area director and some of its member municipal councils with funding for community projects. Community groups can apply for Community Development Grants after discussing their project idea with their RDCK director.
“I have been saving my funds – that’s how I ended up with the $250,000,” Popoff told the Valley Voice. “I didn’t reject any applications, but I was careful with the money, knowing I was either going to use it on Campbell Field… or this was an opportunity to use that money.”
Campbell Field is another recreation property supported by Popoff. The land was gifted to the RDCK in 2016, and planning is now underway for recreational development on the property.
Popoff said the purchase of the Krestova land was a good deal for the whole of Area H, noting the property has been freely used by the local community and beyond for years, until liability concerns prompted the owners to sell.
“It’s been used for horseback riding by owners from the Blewett area, and Slocan area… the children of the area use it for motorbiking, and I’ve seen people use their trucks to haul up ATVs to use it,” he says. “It’s not only used by Krestova residents. It’s used by a lot of residents, not only from Area H but other areas.”
The decision to purchase the property, however, was made without any deep research by RDCK staff as to the need for another regional park in the area, its potential uses and activities, or the ongoing costs of development and maintenance.
The RDCK’s chief administrative officer says that sometimes happens. Stuart Horn cited the purchase of an area near Crawford Bay as another recent example of buying land before local government actually had a plan for it.
“It’s kind of a chicken-and-egg scenario where some of our parks get developed. Sometimes you don’t have the luxury of time to say how are you going to use the property,” says Horn. “You have to make the decision of whether or not you are going to buy it, then figure out how you are going to use it.”
Popoff says that research work will be done now.
“We did not have the land and were not sure we were going to acquire it,” he says. “So there was no need to spend funds for studies. But we did have an ecological assessment done.
“If we are successful in acquiring the property, then we will go through a standard process of evaluating the property, the kinds of studies that have to be done to see what we have to do to make it usable, not only for the Krestova community but the whole area.”
In any event, Popoff and Horn both said, regional parks can be added on without creating a large tax burden, especially if development is kept to a minimum.
“You can have parks where literally it’s just a sign, so people know it’s a regional park, and that’s it,” said Horn. “It depends on what the community wants.”
Popoff agreed that adding another regional park wouldn’t represent an extra burden on Area H taxpayers.
“I don’t see this as a big draw on taxation, because we have no plans to develop it… and the studies would be done with grant funds,” he says.
The announcement of the land purchase came at the last RDCK board meeting before the municipal elections in October, and was the last opportunity for Community Development Fund grants to be issued. But the purchase has been in the works for some time. Last September, the regional government issued a news release saying it had directed staff “to investigate the opportunity to purchase the land by looking into environmental criteria, outdoor experiences and activities, area management and management and planning criteria, as well as other historical and cultural attributes.”
A community survey also garnered 40 letters of support for the idea.
Meanwhile, the RDCK is accepting donations towards the purchase, and will issue tax receipts for donations of $50 or more.
Popoff says he won’t be involved in fundraising efforts moving forward, but wouldn’t rule out more public funds being used to finance the purchase or improvements to the park. He has about $20-30,000 left in his portion of the CDF funding, and other pots of money he can earmark.
The RDCK release says if fundraising efforts are not successful, donations will be used for future recreational development at Campbell Field at the Playmor Junction—just a few kilometres from the Krestova property.
John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice