Residents living in Okanagan Centre watched this week as the District of Lake Country moved in and removed several illegal sheds, old boathouses and a variety of boats, chairs and other structures on a stretch of public land known as the Greenspace.
The long-standing issue, which is related to the removal of several illegal docks in past years, has some residents up in arms about a lack of public consultation and other members happy to have private structures removed from a public beach.
It’s been a controversial issue that has put residents in the small Lake Country ward of Okanagan Centre on different sides of what has become a hot button topic.
“I can’t believe how cleaning up the beach has become so fraught with anger,” said Coun. Lisa Cameron, who represents Okanagan Centre. “We are trying to treat the Okanagan Centre beach like any other park in Lake Country. In any other park staff removes private property without even consulting council.”
But some residents who live in Okanagan Centre are not happy the district has gone ahead with its plan. Resident Blair Ireland says there are many opposed to the clean-up and they simply wanted a public meeting to discuss the issue.
“We want consultation, we want a public meeting, we were always promised we would get our say in what is removed or not,” said Ireland. “We know the beach needed to be cleaned up and we know there are derelict structures. But we wanted a proper meeting to have some say in how our community goes forward.”
Ireland says many in the small community are upset with the clean-up and the way it has been pushed through. But Cameron says the community has been consulted in the past and the issue has been ignored by Lake Country council for several years.
“There has been so much consultation on this issue,” she said. “They have been before council and residents have been surveyed. We have had two previous councils that ignored this issue and unfortunately these residents believe that somehow it is OK for them to break our bylaws. Just because we don’t agree with them doesn’t mean we aren’t listening.”
Cameron says the issue of the clean-up of the Okanagan Centre Greenspace was a key platform in her running for council and she says she has lots of support in Okanagan Centre.
“I wouldn’t have undertaken this if I didn’t think the majority of Okanagan centre residents wanted this,” she said.
Resident Larry Fallis, who lives two blocks away from the beach, said he supports the clean-up.
“In using the beach we found there was more and more stuff showing up,” said Fallis. “They are basically calling garbage a heritage site. There are old sheds with broken glass in it and people put their chairs inside. I think the clean-up is great. (People) are establishing rights that they don’t have on public land.”
Some of the structures will be looked at by the heritage committee in Lake Country to see if there is historical value, but in the meantime, most of the structures have been removed.