Members of Shuswap Beachwalkers are determined to make the public aware that the beach below the high-water line is Crown land and therefore should be accessible to everyone, not just waterfront property owners.

Walkers raise awareness of public beach access

The beach below Shuswap Lake’s highwater mark is Crown land and open to everyone.

Summer and Shuswap Lake are a perfect match.

And to many, a stroll along a beach is perfect too. Trouble is, for those who don’t own waterfront property, finding a place to swim let alone stroll can be a challenge.

It is an issue Shuswap Beachwalkers has taken up, reminding everyone the beach below the lake’s high-water mark is Crown land and therefore open to everyone.

This is confirmed in a Feb. 22 email from the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO):

“Specifically, private moorage tenure holders are required to ensure that public access to the Crown foreshore is maintained (the high water mark of the lake is considered Crown foreshore),” reads the email. “Fences that do not maintain public access to Crown foreshore are unauthorized as per Section 60 of the Land Act, and subject to trespass action and removal under Section 59 of the Land Act.”

FLNRO further points out that while there may be some instances where commercial tenures are granted rights of exclusion, most if not all, private-moorage tenures require licence or permit-holders to maintain public access across Crown-owned foreshore.

But try telling that to some waterfont homeowners. Dan McKerracher, Shuswap Beachwalkers member and a waterfront property owner, says he welcomes people to walk by his place, near Sorrento’s Markwart Road boat launch.

However, a number of obstructive docks and angry comments from some waterfront property owners deter many people from enjoying the lake and local beaches.

“Over the entire eight kilometres of walkable Sorrento-area beach, there are only eight docks that obstruct walkers to one degree or other—four or five, seriously or completely, depending on exactly where the water line is at the time for example, and the rest are merely annoying/marginally dangerous,” says McKerracher, who led a beach walk in the area on Saturday, Feb. 18 to bring attention to the matter. “We’re just starting this walk idea to get the public more involved; everybody is busy, but when you talk to people in stores and social situations, they all have stories about the attitude (of some lakefront property owners).”

McKerracher has spoken to representatives from several levels of government, and says they have been “cautionary” in their approach and seemingly have little appetite to pursue the issue.

Electoral Area C South Shuswap director Paul Demenok agrees that not only is the issue a controversial topic with multiple sides, it is primarily a FLNRO responsibility. In terms of what the regional district can do, he says there are a number of docks that have been grandfathered in.

While he wants to bring attention to the issue, McKerracher says he is not trying to anger waterfront property owners, but rather make them aware that others have the right to stroll along the beach.

It is a message Beachwalkers plans to reiterate through regular walks along the beach on the third Saturday of every month.

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