A Kelowna realtor has found herself on the verbal front lines of the issue of preserving public beach access to the currently flooded Okanagan Lake shoreline.
Brenda Bachmann, a life-long Kelowna resident, said the beach access being blocked by the extension of docks and fencing, has long been a source of irritation to local residents.
“Someone would get up once in awhile and talk about it and then it would die off,” Bachmann said.
Her initial idea was to walk along the shoreline herself with a camera and film herself confronting the illegal public beach access obstructions; then she opted to simply fly a drone with a camera along the shoreline and film it.
“I really think the drone video online started to generate a lot of interest, and that was prior to the unfortunate flooding that has since taken place,” she said.
“It’s just a horrible thing that people with lakefront property have had to deal with and I am 100 per cent behind them trying to rebuild their docks. All I am saying is why not rebuild it so that’s it’s legal, and save you the time of having to reconstruct it again.
“I am not trying to create a new law here. I didn’t make the laws that are in place. I am not asking for any laws to be changed, just enforce the laws that are in place.”
As a result, her initiative has drawn response from people on both sides of this issue, reminding her there is a lot of passion on both sides of the beach access debate.
Bachmann’s current beach access advocacy foray started with one of her clients, Al Janusas who bought an Abbott Street home.
Although a newcomer to Kelowna, having retired as a firefighter in Toronto before moving to the Okanagan to a house that is not on the beachfront, Janusas began to almost immediately question the No Trespassing signs, dock infrastructure and fencing that cut off the legal right of public access.
Janusas has formed a new advocacy group called PLANKelowna, who along with another group called Walk The Beach Kelowna, plan to hold a public walk from City Park to Rotary Beach on Aug. 27.
Bachmann said she is supportive but not directly involved in the PLANKelowna efforts, instead focusing her attention specifically on finding the elusive water lot license owners along Okanagan Lake.
Water lot license holders would be permitted to obstruct access to a beach because their private property rights would extend into the lake to the low water mark.
“I don’t know if the water lot license thing is urban myth or not, but I am going to track down if anyone along Okanagan Lake has such a thing,” Bachmann said.
“I have been down at Kelowna city hall to look over the lake mapping system in search of these elusive water license holders and not found one yet. I’ve heard there are up to 14 such license holders, but so far I’ve only found one in Fintry.”
Bachmann said she is hoping those license holders will come forward prior to the walk taking place in August. She wants to hear from them.
“Urban myth or not, we don’t want to trespass on anyone’s property when the walk is held. But so far we haven’t found anyone.”
Bachmann adds she shares the concerns voiced earlier this month by Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran, who sent a public message to the provincial government that any initiative to address the anticipated rush of dock replacement applications from property owners be accompanied by the resources to ensure the beach access rights of local residents are protected.
A official with the ministry of forests, lands and natural resources, responsible for approving dock applications, told the Kelowna Capital News last week that the ministry is working on an approach to prioritize and expedite approvals for property owners who may need to rebuild or replace their docks.
The ministry has also been working with the dock building industry to ensure they are aware of the legal requirements.
Bachmann said while the city has no jurisdiction on those matters, she wonders if the city could help in some way to ensure the beach access requirement is met, something which did not happen previously due to an apparent resource shortage.
In an interview earlier this year, Janusas noted: “I’ve been told by government officials that the reason enforcement isn’t being done is simply because they don’t have the resources to do so. I find that surprising, especially considering Kelowna is the biggest city in the Interior.”