Public trail no place to keep private property

Property owners have until February to clear their stuff off Okanadan Centre Greenspace trail.

Lake Country Coun. Lisa Cameron stands beside an aging cabana being used to store beach equipment. It’s one of a dozen or so structures that have been ordered removed by February 2013 or they will be taken down by the District of Lake Country.

Another step has been taken in Lake Country council’s attempts to clean-up a two kilometre trail in Okanagan Centre known as the Okanagan Centre Greenspace.

Council has approved a motion that gives owners of private structures, boats and furniture that are haphazardly strewn along the trail until February next year to remove them or the district will do it for them.

It’s the second phase in a clean-up effort for the public park and trail after council ordered seven remaining private docks also to be removed earlier this year.

“There is so much garbage,” said Coun. Lisa Cameron. “There is a broken catamaran, upturned boats, there is a little cabin that looks like it was built in 1910 and hasn’t been maintained since. Some of these structures are blocking the trail. It’s a danger to anyone walking the path.”

Dozens of aging boathouses or cabana buildings remain along the trail while canoes and boats are chained to trees at nearly every turn. Cameron says the district’s parks committee received dozens of requests to clean up the area at its last meeting and she says it’s about time.

“There is more and more pressure and more and more people using this trail,” she said. “We need to get a handle on this now.”

The issue includes private docks that over the years have been erected in Okanagan Lake, using property that is owned by Lake Country and the province of B.C. In 2010 a dozen docks were ordered to be removed while, strangely, seven others were allowed to remain in place. But earlier this year a motion was passed that the final seven docks also be removed by the end of next year or else they will be taken over by the district.

Last week’s motion to further the clean-up effort had Coun. Penny Gambell up in arms.

“I was abhorred at the Draconian approach to the public in our community and I’m shocked at this kind of motion coming forward,” she said. “It was the same when the docks were removed. It created terrible feeling in the community. Not that we are going to clean up the Greenspace. That’s fine. But what is missing here is any consideration for those people that have put the chairs down there.”

Mayor James Baker harkened back to the good old days when talking on the issue and reminisced about a time when anyone could stroll to the beach and use a canoe or a boat that was left there.

But the boats along the trail are all chained to trees, noted Cameron, and are only there for the people who own them.

“This is about people putting private property in a public space,” she said. “This is supposed to be like our Stanley Park (in Vancouver). You wouldn’t see this kind of thing in Stanley Park. This trail is supposed to be for every resident of Lake Country not just a few.”

In the end council approved the motion and gave residents until the end of February to remove their property or the district would move in.

As for the remaining seven docks, Cameron says the district may decide to keep a few of them if they are safe and make them part of the Greenspace by using them within a swim area.