Who should own James Chabot park?

Invermere asks for James Chabot park back from province

  • Feb. 12, 2020 2:30 p.m.

The District of Invermere, which sometimes goes by the moniker Invermere on the Lake, could see its lakeside parkland improve considerably in coming years.

Coinciding with the eventual development of the Lake Windermere Resort lands in Athalmer, Invermere council members are now seeking to make James Chabot Provincial Park part of the district. Council voted unanimously at its Tuesday, January 28 meeting to send a formal letter of interest to the Ministry of Environment asking that the district be gifted the lakeside provincial park, which – although it falls under provincial management – sits entirely within the district. The move was spurred by an ever-increasing number of complaints over the past two decades to the district over the declining quality of facilities and level of service at the park and its beach, leaving District of Invermere staff in the unenviable position of having to repeatedly explain to the complainants that there’s little the district can do since it does not own the park.

Council members had already broached the topic with the Ministry of Environment at this past fall’s Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) meeting, and at two other meetings since then.

“I have to emphasize that this is still just very preliminary. We are in early discussions (with the ministry), but it is our intent to take back this park,” Invermere mayor Al Miller told the Pioneer, speaking the week after the meeting. “It basically comes down to the state of the park. We’ve invested heavily in the Kinsmen Beach area with a lot of infrastructure and other upgrades. It’s very busy, and that’s a good sign. It shows people like the lake. But there’s another beach at James Chabot, and it’s not in as good shape and it’s not as busy. People don’t seem to enjoy going there as much. We feel if we put money into it, we can create something special down there.”

Miller cited the complaints the district gets.

“It’s problematic. There are two beaches in town. It’s logical to assume they both belong to the district, but one doesn’t,” he said. “Most of the calls are along the lines of the washrooms need repair, or other maintenance upkeep has been neglected. We just feel that if we (the district) can go a better job of keeping up with that, then everybody will benefit.”

The land was designated as a provincial park decades ago, and named after local long-serving MLA James Chabot. Miller outlined that the park being near the as-yet-undeveloped Lake Windermere Resort lands presents the district with a unique opportunity.

“If we can bring it (James Chabot) in conjunction with the Lake Windermere Resort lands, we could theoretically see park space stretching from the train tracks right through to the bridge,” he said.

Miller said that, although things are still preliminary, in the few meetings Invermere officials have had with the Ministry of Environment, the ministry has seemed amenable to the idea.

He added that the process, if it goes ahead, would likely take at least a year to a year and a half.

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