Carli Berry/Capital News Okanagan Centre resident Richard Gibbons stands beside the Okanagan Safe Harbour in Lake Country. He said there are problems with its design.

Lake Country residents call for change to Okanagan Safe Harbour

Okanagan Centre Coun. Blair Ireland and resident Richard Gibbons say the harbour isn’t effective

A long-time Okanagan Centre resident and a district councillor say the Okanagan Safe Harbour in Lake Country is poorly designed and inefficient.

Richard Gibbons has been a resident of Lake Country for 65 years.

He said the safe harbour is primarily being used as a boat launch and is completely ineffective as a safe harbour.

Boaters are unable to moor their boats aside from using the shore during a storm, due to the waves breaking through the safe harbour’s opening near the dock, he said, adding boaters are also unable to tie boats to the breakwater as it’s too high and has railings.

READ MORE: Construction on Okanagan Centre Safe Harbour to continue this week

“Then what do you have to do, you have to climb over a fence?” Gibbons said, gesturing toward the breakwater.

Parking is another significant issue. Vehicles will often have to park in the wrong direction, and boaters are left waiting for a long period of time as only one boat can launch at a time, he said.

The safe harbour lies under the Regional District of Central Okanagan’s jurisdiction and was taken over from the federal government in 1996. Prior to that, it was wooden, with rotting wood, said Bruce Smith, regional district communications officer.

“What they have done, is take a useful breakwater … it’s able to break waves, but for whom? No boats can really use the area and in terms of launching, they could have made it much more user-friendly,” Gibbons said. The number of boaters launching large boats has also increased, he said.

Milfoil at the launch is also a problem.

“It’s all over the surface… this entire basin is filled with milfoil,” he said, adding the milfoil is spreading in the area because the district hasn’t cleaned it up. Milfoil is an invasive species that interferes with water-based activities.

There’s a lack of any kind of maintenance, he said.

Okanagan Centre Coun. Blair Ireland agrees that the safe harbour doesn’t function as it was intended.

“When they rebuilt it they structured it so that it’s not a safe harbour, it’s a boat launch with a breakwater. It’s not a safe harbour, there’s no way to moor a boat unless you run it up on the beach,” he said.

“Every Saturday morning, Sunday, there’s almost fights down there because it just doesn’t work,” he said.

Ireland suggested building a floating dock, which can move up and down to help those with mobility issues.

“Lake Country has no say. I’ve tried to encourage us to possibly take it over because we get all the flack,” Ireland said.

“In the old days, you could have had six or seven boats at the same time,” he said.

READ MORE: Ok. Centre Safe Harbour getting safer with retrofit

Smith said the safe harbour was never meant for long-term mooring, and there’s no room for it to grow because of its location.

“There’s really no room to grow because it’s right beside the road. It’s right on the shoreline…. and there are no plans for anything further,” Smith said.

He said remediation work will soon begin to restore it to its pre-floods state, and Lake Country staff and council were involved in the original restoration period.

Smith said the regional district is open to having discussions with the District of Lake Country.

“We’ve always tried to be inclusive,” he said.

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