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Year in review: Public beach access a hot topic for Lake Country residents

Gable Beach was a contentious issue for Lake Country

The battle of Gable Beach was a hot issue this year, especially for Carr’s Landing residents.

The district’s attempt to sell land near the foreshore was defeated after Carr’s Landing residents filled the seats of municipal hall and protested the sale of three pieces of land near the Gable Road road end, which would go towards paying off Lake Country’s debt to Kelowna for its investment in the district’s section of Okanagan Rail Trail.

A new bench located at Gable Beach stands as a symbol of what can be achieved when residents rally for their rights, but also as a warning of what could have been when a city grows complacent to and lets developers do as they like.

One of my Australian friends was baffled when he saw how little beach access there is for the public in Kelowna, with massive fences and homes enclosing public property, he said the concept is unheard of in Australia.

An inaugural Walk the Beach protest in Kelowna highlighted the frustration of the nearly 100 residents, and showed how difficult it is to reclaim something once it’s gone. It’s not a new issue either in the Central Okanagan either. The lack of public beach access was brought to light again after the 2017 floods washed away illegal docks, allowing the province to develop a better system to ensure they’re built to regulations.

Waterfront property lines only extend to the high water mark, the land below lies under provincial and public jurisdiction. Docks built to the lake must also come with steps on either side.

Carr’s Landing residents fought for months to have the beach retained under the district’s jurisdiction, afraid that council’s decision would lead to the closure of the beach to the public.

The election results showed that Lake Country wants a council to protect these rights. Once a protester, now a councillor, Carr’s Landing’s newest Coun. Cara Reed will be watched closely in the year ahead to see if she can stick to her words.

It’s easier to stand up to an authority than it is to deal with unhappy citizens when you’re in the driver’s seat, but Reed seems eager to take on the task.

But if you want your beach access protected, prepare to stand up for it.

Carli Berry is the Capital News reporter who covers Lake Country issues.

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