The Cook Road boat launch will be temporarily closed while sand buildup is removed.

User pay could be coming for commercial operators at Kelowna boat launches

City staff are expected to present a plan to council within the next month

Commercial operators may be paying to use City of Kelowna boat launches come summer.

During Monday’s meeting, (Feb. 7) council heard a staff report outlining the cost of operating the city’s three main launches at Cook Road, Water Street and Sutherland Bay.

The boat launches require significant annual maintenance to ensure they remain functional. Over the last three years the costs were $234,918 in 2019, $196,840 in 2020 and $181,498 in 2021. The costs include annual dredging at the Cook Road launch due to a significant pulse of sediment from Mission Creek. Urban Systems analyzed activity at the launches last summer and found a typical season for boat launches is from the beginning of April to the end of September, with the highest use in July and August. The report found there is no clear peak hour for use, but boats are typically launched in the morning and afternoon and retrieved in the evening.

The city staff report estimates there are two valet companies, ten dryland boat rental businesses, and three dryland boat clubs using municipal launches. It’s also estimated the companies account for approximately 25 per cent of the total boat launch usage. Staff expect to present council with a permit program that will apply to commercial users next month, which could be put in place for the time for the 2022 boating season. Councillors raised concerns over who would manage such a program. Staff stated bylaw officers could oversee the launches and the department is aware and agreeable to the program. Additionally, a commercial operator would have its permit cancelled if it were found to be non-compliant.

“That’s excellent,” said Coun. Maxine DeHart. “I think we have to make sure that does happen. I’ll be excited to see this come back (to council).”

Coun. Charlie Hodge was concerned about the cost.

“I was actually quite shocked when I first recognized the amount of cost it is to maintain these boat launch facilities,” said Hodge. “The taxpayer shouldn’t have to burden the full cost.”

Coun. DeHart brought up concerns around commercial outfits feeling they have preferential treatment if they are paying to use the launches.

“I think that’s something we really have to take into consideration,” she said. “Because when people are paying fees then they feel they have the right because others don’t, they might get that idea that they might get preferential treatment.”

The staff report also noted the floating docks at Cook Road are at their end of life, the Water Street docks are past their end of life, and both locations need the wooden docks to be rebuilt.

Coun. Luke Stack asked when new docks might be installed, but was told there was no current time estimate. However, Urban Systems is conducting a comprehensive operational review and assessment of municipal boating facilities. The result will include a report which will deliver a 15-year plan to guide decision-making about improvements to existing facilities.

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