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UPDATE: Chilliwack residents to lose influence in Cultus Lake governance

Sue Lister and the petition she and husband Gary started last summer to try to change the Cultus Lake Park Act. - Tyler Olsen
Sue Lister and the petition she and husband Gary started last summer to try to change the Cultus Lake Park Act.
— image credit: Tyler Olsen

Cultus Lake Park Board chair Sacha Peter says the legislation introduced by the provincial government Thursday to change the Cultus Lake Park Act leaves significant issues unresolved.

"Specifically, there has been no resolution to the complex land tenure issue that continues to pose a significant risk to stakeholders in Cultus Lake Park," Peter said in a press release issued Friday.

Chilliwack residents will have less input into management of Cultus Lake if Bill 27, The Cultus Lake Park Amendment Act 2014, is passed by the Legislature.

The changes introduced by Minister for Community, Sport and Cultural Development Coralee Oakes will reduce the number of commissioners on the board from seven to five and increase the number of commissioners elected by Cultus residents from two to three.

The current system sees five commissioners elected by residents of Chilliwack and two by Cultus residents.

The park board was not consulted by the provincial government about Bill 27.

"It is the understanding of the Park Board that by virtue of the City of Chilliwack owning the lands consisting of Cultus Lake Park, the City was consulted and consented to this legislation," the park board press release said.

In a letter to Throness dated March 20, Mayor Sharon Gaetz expressed council's endorsement of his recommendation to reduce the number of commissioners from seven to five and the number that are voted on by Chilliwack residents.

"Council does this with the understanding that no costs associated with the proposed change to the Cultus Lake Park Board Act will be incurred by the City of Chilliwack," she wrote.

Gaetz said that council also asked that Throness communicate the proposed change with the park board.

The changes to the Cultus Lake Park Act came at the urging of Chilliwack-Hope MLA Laurie Throness who himself was responding to a 926-name petition started by two Cultus residents last summer.

"I’m so pleased that our government has responded to the calls of residents and leaseholders of Cultus Lake to increase the accountability of the board to the people it serves," Throness said in a caucus press release issued Thursday. "Two years ago during the byelection in Chilliwack-Hope, I supported the desire of Cultus Lake residents to bring change, and last May I reiterated that commitment. Today our government is delivering."

Cultus residents Sue and Gary Lister gathered 926 signatures on their petition, which was presented to Throness in the summer who presented it to the Legislature on July 24.

The changes to the act, however, do not go all the way to respond to the Listers' petition. Their request was to reduce the number of commissioners to five but also to have them only elected by Cultus residents.

"Although it wasn't what we were going for with the petition, it does make it a more accountable board and I'm very happy with that," Sue Lister told the Times Thursday.

Last summer, Peter questioned the logic underlying the petition given that the City of Chilliwack is on the title of the land at Cultus.

In July, Peter added that it would make little sense to hand 100 per cent control of the park board to Cultus Lake residents given how much they contribute to coffers.

"Cultus Lake Park is more than the 470 residential leaseholders," Peter said. "If you look at in terms of dollars and cents, about 15 per cent of [park board] revenue comes from residential leaseholders."

Peter also pointed out that five of the current members of the park board—Bob McRae, Owen Skonberg, Carlton Toews, Charlotte Hall and Larry Payeur—live or have homes at the lake.

"It's not as if the residents are not represented on the board," Peter said. "Conversely, one could make the argument that the people of Chilliwack do not have adequate representation on the board."

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