City council has taken a first step toward turning the Valleyview silt cliffs into a park.
Council voted 5-3 Tuesday to send a letter to the Ministry of Environment asking that the provincially owned lands within the cliffs be designated as parkland.
Then council would look at City-owned lands within the context of the upcoming parks master plan.
Frances Vyse, president of the Valleyview Community Association, presented council with a map Tuesday that showed areas of Crown and City lands within the bluffs designated as open space. Her group wants that changed to park designation.
The cliffs are home grassland vegetation, some recovering Ponderosa pines, flowering plants, insects, birds, and small mammals.
"The reason why they're so important is there was no cattle grazing up there because there was no water easily accessible for the cows. There were some sheep in the post-war years in the middle of the Valleyview silt cliffs, but sheep were less damaging and confined to a small area," said Vyse, who has also been involved in conservation issues for decades.
"And they are recognized provincially, nationally and internationally for the grassland values that are there."
The end result is there is a "mishmash" of lands with various designations in the silt bluffs that she and her group would like to see changed to parkland. Added in the mix are two privately owned parcels.
The cliffs span from Valleyview through Juniper and as far as Barnhartvale. Vyse said she'd like to see the area get the same types of use as Kenna Cartwright or Peterson Creek parks.
"We want you to take the necessary steps to consolidate all these parcels into the same, City-owned level of ownership and designate the whole thing as a unique park," she said.
Coun. Marg Spina was quick to make a motion to write the Ministry of Environment about having the province's lands changed to park status. The City could deal with rezoning its own property separately, rather than taking over the Crown lands.
"Given the amount of land involved and tightness of our budget, we wouldn't be able to extend our parks that much to include natural space without a huge tax increase to residents," she said.
City administrator David Trawin said the Valleyview silt bluffs are a major part of the parks master plan that's going to council in about a month at a workshop.
He agreed with Vyse that the area is a mishmash of zonings right now.
Coun. Pat Wallace felt Spina's motion was a bit premature, suggesting the mayor discuss the idea with local MLAs and explore possible options.
Coun. Nancy Bepple agreed, saying the City should get its own lands pulled together through steps like the parks master plan, then approach the province.
"Before we ask the province, we have a lot of housekeeping to do on our side of the fence."
Mayor Peter Milobar sided with Spina, saying the letter was a good first step.
The City went through a similar process when Lac du Bois was designated a provincial park, and that took some time, he said.
"I have talked to (Kamloops-North Thompson MLA and Environment Minister) Terry Lake about this and he was noncommittal. Lac du Bois didn't happen overnight, either," he said.
"It's important to start the conversation," added Spina.
The silt bluffs have divided the community before; about 15 years ago, the province was looking at putting a bypass across the area to give truckers a more efficient route through Kamloops.
Vyse said the issue divided Valleyview residents; those to the east who lived closer to the cliffs opposed it because it would have brought traffic right by their homes; those to the west saw more benefit to getting traffic through faster.
"It split the community, but also made us aware of a treasure we have," she said.
HOW THEY VOTED
On a motion to writ the appropriate ministry asking the province to consider adding areas of the Valleyview silt cliffs as provincial parks that would abut City lands.
For: Marg Spina, Peter Milobar, Tina Lange, Nelly Dever and Nancy Bepple
Opposed: Pat Wallace, Ken Christian and Arjun Singh
Absent: Donovan Cavers