Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Regional park sale raises questions

AUGUST 21, 2012 

Concerns are being raised about the unprecedented sale of a Saskatchewan regional park. LeRoy Leisureland Regional Park, an 80-acre park opened in the late 1960s, and offers a nine-hole golf course, camping, a swimming pool and other amenities.
Photograph by: Postmedia News , file photo
Concerns are being raised about the unprecedented sale of a Saskatchewan regional park.

A group of Vancouver investors has been lined up by the local park board to buy LeRoy Leisureland Regional Park, located a few kilometres from BHP Billiton's proposed Jansen potash mine project.

"This stinks," park manager Maggie Hamilton said. "A lot of this has been a secret, but the public should have known about this."

A public meeting on the subject takes place Wednesday evening in LeRoy, located about 130 kilometres east of Saskatoon. Hamilton and others plan to attend and ask the park's eight-member board to reconsider.

"We're hoping there'll be enough people there making enough of a stink that they'll have to take another look at this," Hamilton said.

The 80-acre park opened in the late 1960s and offers a nine-hole golf course, camping, a swimming pool and other amenities. Hamilton and others say the park is a busy, valuable community asset.

The general public was not informed or asked for input on the months-long negotiations or sale of the park, a government official said. Officials with the local rural municipalities, towns and the provincial government consented to non-disclosure agreements.

Darlene Friesen, executive director of the Saskatchewan Regional Parks Association, called it a "very unusual development.

"This is the first time for this. It is what it is."

Many years ago, a couple of parks closed due to lack of volunteers or resources. This is the first time such a sale has been negotiated, she said.

The park's future is unclear. The park board's treasurer, Leona Wakelan, confirmed the park has been "sold," but said it will remain open.

"This is a good news story," she said, declining to give details until the Wednesday meeting.

The provincial government's director of park management services, Bob McEachern, said the government agreed to the "dissolution" of the park.

He said the process had taken several months to complete.

The government evaluated the park's value to the community, the proximity of other comparable services, the dispersal of park assets and other factors. In the end, Tourism, Parks, Culture and Sports Minister Kevin Doherty agreed to let the local board proceed with dissolution, McEachern said.

"The regional park as we know it would not be a regional park," he said.

McEachern said there is nothing in provincial legislation requiring the public to be notified before a park is sold or shut down.

He said there have been no other dissolution applications filed by any of the boards of Saskatchewan's nearly 100 regional parks.

The Vancouver investors are also interested in purchasing land adjacent to the park and in other parts of the region, according to people involved in the process.

The area could be home to BHP's Jansen potash mine, which, if approved by the BHP board, would be the world's largest.

Regional parks were created decades ago to give outdoor recreation options to Saskatchewan communities.

Some are owned by park boards, while others are owned by municipalities or leased.

Once designated a regional park, however, control shifts to the park's volunteer board.

Friesen said the provincial minister has the power to intervene, but that has never happened.

As for funding, Friesen said most of the parks generate significant revenue, and capital improvements were cost-shared this year thanks to a million-dollar grant from the provincial government.

No comments:

Post a Comment