West Bench family donates part of property for parkland

ImageJOHN MOORHOUSE 11/23/2009 (link to story)

[Click on picture for a larger version] For almost 50 years Walter Bonin has owned a scenic, natural piece of the West Bench next to the KVR right-of-way.

Now Bonin and his family want to preserve most of their four-hectare property as a park by donating it to the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen.

“I look at that piece of property and I see a beautiful park could be made out of that -- there‘s so many possibilities there,” he said. “As long as it‘s designated parkland, I‘m happy to donate it.”

Bonin has owned the property at 320 Newton Drive since 1960, moving his family to the West Bench after arriving in Penticton in 1947. He once operated a three-hectare dairy farm off Riverside Drive – an area now occupied by a string of motels.

His four children are also registered as co-owners of the property. His daughter, Eileen Seddon said the donation of the land has the support of everyone in the family.

“It‘s a wonderful legacy,” she said. “We‘re all really excited about it.”

The parcel includes a large wedge-shaped section of flat land overlooking a wide, deep gully which leads toward Okanagan Lake. The three-hectare donated portion will be subdivided from Bonin‘s house and yard on the south side of the gully.

Bonin suggested the site could be used as a ball diamond or sports field in the future, noting part of the gully could be filled in as well. Any decisions on future use would be up to the West Bench parks board.

Michael Brydon, RDOS director for Area F (West Bench-Okanagan Lake West), said the land will likely be kept in a natural state as a walk-in park, left as a natural grassland area, for the medium-term future.

“The parks commission just liked the idea of this neat little wedge of pristine West Bench,” he said.

“We‘re just going to leave it (as is). Maybe at some point we might put a little boardwalk out because there are very delicate plants and things out there.”

Located on the east side of the KVR right-of-way, plans call for access to the donated portion to be via the KVR. However, Brydon noted the Penticton Indian band is attempting to reacquire the right-of-way, which was expropriated from the reserve when the KVR was built almost 100 years ago.

The parcel is zoned as “small holdings” which includes open land recreation as a permitted use.

“The electoral Area F official community plan encourages the preservation and enhancement of the natural resources for recreational and tourism purposes,” Bill Newell, the regional district‘s CAO, stated in a report to the RDOS board.

RDOS directors voted unanimously to proceed with the necessary analysis, studies and legal work to accept Bonin‘s land donation. All legal fees and future costs associated with the land will be paid by the Area F parks department.
 

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