Every week, during the run-up to the Oct. 20 election, the Calendar will ask Lake Country candidates a question about a local issue. This week’s question is:
There has been a lot of concern in recent years about whether the lakefront is being kept accessible to the general public.
Some people are concerned that rich homeowners are able to build structures that impede beach use. Others complain there isn’t enough park space.
Is there enough being done to make sure there is enough public space?
If not, what do you think the municipality should do to ensure the public has access to the waterfront?
For the full list of candidates, go to lakecountrycalendar.com and click on the election tab.
Lake Country added a 17 kilometer rail trail to our public space this past year, opening for public access approximately eight km of lakefront access. The District of Lake Country is rebuilding the old Highway 97 Corridor along Wood Lake (now called Pelmewash Parkway) for walking and biking access adjacent to Wood Lake. There will be several small boat accesses for the public and picnic areas too. In Carrs Landing, after much public input, Council made a positive move to retain a 600-foot long road right of way for park conservation as undeveloped beach front. I think that it is very important that we plan to add to our park and open space resources as our community grows. We need to plan for more boat access to Okanagan Lake where we have very limited launch facilities available today. I believe it is necessary for large developments to provide for trails and flat usable parkland that will be available to the public. In the Okanagan Centre ward, there is approximately 5 km of green space which is accessible to the public, recently upgraded with walking trails, benches and toilets. It is very important that all users respect the value of the natural riparian areas next to our lakes and creeks.
I believe that the general public in the District of Lake Country has plenty of access to our lakes and the District is continually building up the inventory.
We have spent millions of dollars on procuring the Rail Trail and making Pelmewash Parkway more user-friendly. Both of these facilities provide plenty of new lake access along their length.
Rich homeowners are not able to build structures which impede public beach use. Foreshore owners need approval from the Provincial Government prior to construction on Crown land. Crown land “begins at the established high water mark of 343 meters above sea level and extends to the lake.” There will be structures impeding access which were constructed prior to the new regulations. They are “grandfathered.” If these structures are destroyed they have to be rebuilt to the new standards.
Foreshore owners pay a premium in property taxes to have the privilege of living on the lake but they must still allow access to the public on crown land. The tax money does go back into the community so that more parks can be purchased.
In the interest of “full disclosure,” I must state I am a foreshore owner. I was not able to be one because of wealth. Twenty-eight years ago I saw the potential in my ward and made a smart investment decision which cost less than what I could buy a travel trailer today.
This issue goes to the core of why I am running for councillor. I feel that we have gotten to a place where our current councillors no longer represent the public’s best interest. I was appalled to learn that they intended to sell off a public lakefront access (Gable Beach) to help balance the district’s budget needs and the rail trail. If the district cannot meet its funding needs without liquidating public assets then there is a problem in upper leadership that needs to be addressed. When did we get to the point of balancing the district’s budget on the backs of the little guys (you and me)? Clearly, the current councillors are under the impression that they are nothing more than the right arm of the district. They are surely not operating with the public’s interest in mind. It was not until the public expressed outrage over the intended sale of Gable Beach that the councillors changed their positions (all except Lambert). I, for one, am quite tired of seeing the wealthy and big developers get their projects through council without a hiccup, while the rest of us are made to jump through hoop after hoop. Why don’t we go after some of those big developers to cover the district’s budget needs, road improvements, etc.? Our councillors should be representing the general public and not the district or big developers. They have lost their way. It is time to send them a clear message. I, for one, will be voting for all non-incumbent candidates with the exception of one councillor who has constantly looked after our interests, small farmers, our environment and our parks. We need to protect our lakefront accesses and public parks from being the target of the district’s shortcomings. We need to hold big developers financially responsible for their fair share of our expenses. Most of our current councillors have proven that they have no concern for us and preserving our way of life. It is time for a wholesale change. Let’s make that happen on election day.
Everybody should have access to the waterfront, we live in a province where it’s viable that we should have access to it. We don’t want to overpopulate the beach to where it’s so eroded that we can’t enjoy it, but we also need the accessibility. There should be more designated beach area that is manageable for the public.
The amazing public response to the Okanagan Rail Trail and growth and support for grass roots groups, such as the Friends of Gable Beach and PLANKelowna, show that access to our lakefront is front of mind for both Okanagan residents and visitors.
Smaller, wilder waterfront spaces provide a local haven not just for humans but wildlife and plant ecosystems as well. As word of the Rail Trail spreads and it becomes integrated into cultural and sporting events, these quieter spaces will become even more important.
On the question of docks, our private lakefront land is owned by a diverse population – families who have had cabins here for generations, families who have second homes and gather friends and family to Lake Country – all of whom make a significant contribution to our community, our tax base and our local economy.
There is the need to rebuild many docks as result of the 2017 flooding. To enable easier public access, our DLC bylaws have a design requirement that docks over 30 cm high (at the high water mark) must have steps – this is a key tool to keep our lakeshore accessible.
Also we can look to our existing public waterfront – how we can make this more accessible to all? This includes improved parking, handrails by steps, wheelchair enabled ramps or walkways, interpretative signage etc.