To the editor:
I read with great interest the comments made by councillors regarding the clean up of the Okanagan Centre Greenspace, a unique and precious jewel in our community and our region. (Public Trail No Place to Keep Privat Property, Sept. 12 Lake Country Calendar) What I found most interesting was that there was any debate at all.
This beautiful section of shoreline has been littered with personal storage units, decking, carpet, tables, chairs, boats, sheds, old tires, campers and other miscellaneous pieces of human detritus for decades. For certain councillors to suggest that a community initiative, unanimously supported and brought forward by the District Parks and Recreation Committee, to clean up this area for the benefit of all community members, as well as wildlife, is “draconian” is an affront to democracy and an insult to those of us who support the preservation of public space for public use.
draconian? draconian is an adjective meaning “great severity,” where small offences had heavy punishments. So, let me get this straight: Coun. Gambell says that asking trespassers to remove their personal belongings from the beach within six months or it’ll be removed for them is heavy handed? Really?
Well OK then let’s not.
Instead, perhaps I’ll set up a storage shed down at Swalwell Park. After all, it’s really inconvenient for me to carry all of my stuff from the car all the time.
Or, maybe I’ll park my camper down on the new tennis courts—it’d be handier access to my fridge.
Or, how about I build myself a nice private dock up on the pond at The Lakes?
Such thoughts are preposterous. Any reasonable person can see that. Yet, somehow, our two old-time council members, Coun. Gambell and Mayor Baker, seem to think that individuals who have stored their stuff on the beach in Okanagan Centre should be permitted some form of squatters’ rights; that because they’ve left their stuff there for a long time, they should be left alone to do what they like.
Perhaps I wouldn’t find that so objectionable if I didn’t see new items added every year—another boat, another shed, another dock/sitting platform, another swim dock with slide, new stairs excavated into a beautiful bank. Much of the items are used only for two months in the summer, often by “summer residents” and left the other 10 sitting as eyesores in the public space. At times, these items are blown down the beach to tangle themselves in waterlines, mooring buoys and nesting areas.
And, it is doubly exasperating when one considers that one (that’s right, just one) individual was fined $1,000 along with the cost of destruction and removal, attached to his property taxes, for ‘trespass’ on that same beach where no fewer than 45 current incidences of trespass exist. Was that action, initiated by these same council members, draconian? Most would say that the affected ‘super senior,’ in the early stages of dementia, was adequately warned, so it’s not draconian. Arbitrary and discriminatory maybe, but not draconian.
Meanwhile, in the rest of the country…
Sept. 15 – 23 marked the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup (shorelinecleanup.ca) where more than 45,000 Canadians at more than 1,500 sites participated in cleaning up local shorelines. In fact, our “progressive” neighbours to the south rounded up 400 volunteers to clean 19 sites. But here in Lake Country, these two council members are so concerned about protecting the interests of a few of their old friends, of protecting the interests who have lived here longer, they completely miss what their own constituents are saying and what the rest of the country is up to.
Do we need public facilities down at Okanagan Centre? I think we do—picnic tables, park benches, maybe rentable boat storage or a canoe/kayak/sailboat co-op facility, public swim docks—they are all possibilities. But the initiative needs to be driven by a plan which captures the input of the whole community, not just those who have the cheek to construct and leave things in public space.
All ideas should be considered by the Parks and Recreation Committee and council and, with a plan in hand arrived at through public consultation, those interested can contribute meaningfully to legacy infrastructure that the community has identified is of value.
As a new member to the Parks and Recreation Committee, I’d like to hear the community’s ideas on the rehabilitation of this space.
In the meantime, mark your calendar for Saturday, March 2, 2013—we’re looking for a volunteer clean up crew.