As a waterfront city, Kelowna, Canada is heavily reliant on its shoreline. Okanagan Lake provides many things for the city, though the limited points of access pose a complex question when it comes to the provision of space. Competing for use of the shore are the tourism industry, public parks, boat launches, marinas, a logging mill, and the natural riparian environment.
In 2009, the City’s urban planners devised a Downtown Waterfront Plan, which was reaffirmed in the 2011 Downtown Plan. Both plans identified the redevelopment of certain waterfront areas to better serve the various needs of the community, while respecting the ecosystem. Some of the plans have come to fruition, such as the first phase of Stuart Park.
Stuart Park filled a gap in the waterfront, and now connects Kerry and City Parks to the south with Waterfront Park to the north, creating a broad promenade popular with tourists and residents alike. This park also provides new public spaces and amenities, such as an outdoor skating rink, but the most significant change in my mind was the rehabilitation of a wetland environment at the shoreline. It is not uncommon to see ducks and even herons relaxing there.
Further redevelopment is still in the planning stage, though development company Westcorp Properties Inc. has been given the go-ahead to design, construct, and operate a reimagined Kerry Park. Their design concept includes an expansion of the marina and creation of a public pier, as well as the relocation of existing boat slips away from the focal point of the park, the iconic Sails sculpture. Both the City and the developers hope for a 2013 completion date.
In the meantime, Kelowna’s waterfront parks continue to be an important part of the city’s economy, infrastructure, and identity.
Do you think most waterfront cities take pride in their shoreline? What makes or breaks a great urban waterfront?
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.