Bear Creek boat launch closed

Campers and boaters at Bear Creek Park are going to be in for a rude surprise this summer as the only boat launch in the area is being closed by the Regional District of Central Okanagan.

The launch has been in trouble for some time as silt and sediment, along with low water levels, have forced the district to act now.

The cost to repair the area would have gone over $100,000.

That might be affordable to a community the size of West Kelowna. But since incorporation, that left the launch in a small community park and would have cost residents of Central Okanagan West roughly $40 per home.

Regional district spokesperson Bruce Smith said the cost was just too high.

“It was not done lightly,” he said.

“We recognize...that there was going to be increasing demand for boating amenities in the Central Okanagan but we had to look at it from a cost effective point of view. The expense of the upgrade required and the burden that would place on the people in the area was just too high.”

Even if the cost was shared, Smith says the regional district isn’t sure they could get the required permissions to even do the remediation work.

It would require permits from Ministry of Environment and Department of Fisheries and Oceans. And even if the cost and environmental factors were mitigated, it still wouldn’t ensure the build-up of material wouldn’t bury the launch again.

Smith says the regional district worked closely with B.C. Parks next door, which has removed the advertised amenity from its site and posted notices in the park, but he anticipates some boaters coming to the campground this summer may be disappointed.

Smith said the regional district has already had several emails complaining about the situation.

The closure leaves the nearest westside boat launches at Fintry, which would require a long trip down windy Westside Road or back into West Kelowna at Gellatly Bay.

It also highlights one of several problems the regional district identified in its 2008 Marine Facilities Study.

It pegged the economic impact of boating in the Central Okanagan to be $39 million per year to the local economy.

It said that figure could grow to nearly $70 million if issues of access, moorage and boat storage were addressed.

One of its specific recommendations was that local governments develop and improve boat launches and accesses.

It said the Central Okanagan greatly needed at least give more launches within the next 20 years along with provision for temporary parking.

The study indicated the Bear Creek launch had roughly 10 users per day.

There has been little if any public discussion by regional district partners since the Marine Facilities Study was made public three years ago.

Marshall Jones is a Capital News contributor.

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