Enhancing regional parks is a renewed priority for the Central Okanagan Regional District board. (File photo)

Priorities update check for Central Okanagan Regional District

RDCO board places focus on economic growth, waste management upgrading and regional park enhancement

Park infrastructure enhancement, intensifying waste management practices and post-COVID-19 economic recovery, top the list of strategic priorities facing the Regional District of the Central Okanagan (RDCO) over the next two years.

Gail Given, regional district board chair, says halfway through the current four-year elected mandate, the regional district board of directors has completed an assessment of current and projected priorities.

“It offers a chance for us to just check-in and see what needs to be updated, what board members are comfortable within guidance to our staff about what is important to the board, which in turn provides direction on the budget and what we fund,” Given said.

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The RDCO has a role to play in economic planning through the agency it supports, the Central Economic Development Commission, which serves as a research and collaborative vehicle to understand changes in the provincial and national economy and how that impacts our local business communities.

Over the last decade, the Central Okanagan economy has diversified from a reliance on agriculture and tourism, fueled by the growth of high-tech development and the Okanagan lifestyle attraction drawing people here who can work remotely.

The next step in waste management, Given says, will be putting a focus on food waste and compostable recycling.

She said the regional district wants to be careful not to “swim ahead of the curve” in adopting waste management policies that are not generated from legislation first at a provincial or federal level.

“The feds will be rolling out new plastic disposal laws and we will make sure to support them, but we’ve found that when communities jump ahead of policy initiatives on their own, it can lead to court challenges,” she said.

While the City of Kelowna owns and operates the largest landfill in the regional district, Given said RDCO has and will continue to work closely with the city on a pathway to reduce landfill waste disposal.

“We will do more workshops to help determine the best path moving forward with the results of our waste management audit likely done by the end of the year, and that will feed into how we move forward.”

As for regional parks, the board fell under some criticism last fall when it announced funding for Friends of Fintry Provincial Park Association, an annual $39,000 grant which operates the historic Fintry Estate would be phased out over the next two years, as the funding emphasis would change to enhancing existing park infrastructure and protection of wildlife corridors.

While the creation of Fintry Provincial Park was in part a regional district investment, that investment has now been paid off 20 years later, and Given says the board is looking at new park funding priorities.

“I think people often don’t realize just how many parks the regional district provides and operates,” she noted.

“We’ve also seen how critical the whole regional park system has been during COVID, how highly utilized our parks have been.”

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