A petition to change who can vote in Cultus Lake Park Board elections received 925 signatures.
The longstanding voting structure has created an unfair situation in Cultus Lake Park for residents, stated Sue Lister.
She and husband Gary Lister have been circulating the petition over the past two weeks.
The way it works now, two of the seven-member board are elected by Cultus Lake residents, with the other five commissioners voted in by Chilliwack residents.
The petition seeks to have the Cultus Lake Park Act amended to make it only Cultus Lake votrs who can elect park board commissioners. It also requests that the total number of elected commissioners be reduced from seven to five.
But the management and administration of the Cultus Lake Park Board isn’t a one-way street, cautioned board chair Sacha Peter.
He was reacting to the demand by the petitioners that the province make it only Cultus Lake residents who can vote for park board commissioners.
“On its face, it seems like a one-sided transaction; all upside and no downside,” he said.
“But we need to take into consideration the fact that the lands of Cultus Lake Park have the name of ‘City of Chilliwack’ on title.”
In exchange for the park land that Chilliwack gave to the Cultus Lake Park Board in trust, the people, the electorate of Chilliwack in other words, get to elect a sizable chunk of the park board every three years.
“If this was going to change, at the very minimum, City of Chilliwack would have to be consulted, if not required to consent to such a change,” said the board chair.
As of right now Chilliwack officials have not been consulted on the possibility of any electoral changes at Cultus.
The current board has five commissioners who are residential leaseholders in Cultus Lake Park, he noted.
“That’s more than adequate representation,” said Peter.
Provincial officials have made it clear on more than one occasion “that they do not wish to amend the Cultus Lake Park Act,” he underlined.
With only 470 residential leaseholders, there are also campgrounds, commercial leases, the public park area and the foreshore to be considered in the big picture, said the park board chair.
“So strictly in terms of dollars and cents, the residential leaseholders contribute 15 per cent of the revenues of the park.”
The people of Chilliwack should “definitely have a say in this matter,” because “it’s their park due to the name on title,” Peter added.
Although it’s true that Chilliwack doesn’t directly support Cultus Lake Park financially, they still have a relationship.
“It started in 1932 when they contributed the land,” he said.
The mayor of Chilliwack agreed on the need to give Chilliwack a say.
“It is a very complex issue and the legislation ties the ownership of the land to the makeup of the board,” said Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz, in an emailed statement.
“As the land is owned by the residents of Chilliwack, it is their right to have a say in who runs the Park. I would think any legislation that changes the election of commissioners should also address the tenure of the land.”
The other risk, Peter stated, which has not been addressed by petitioners, is if the composition changes to five commissioners elected by lake residents exclusively, “it would likely trigger consultation requirements by local First Nations over the lands of Cultus Lake Park.
“That would result in a costly and complex process, and greatly increase the risk for leaseholders to see an undesirable outcome for them.”