VERNON - An agreement between the Okanagan Indian Band and City of Vernon could lead to some changes at Kin Beach.
Officials from the band and the city met yesterday, June 29, to discuss mutual interests in the communities, one of which is Kin Beach. A portion of the popular beach is located on reserve land, roughly between Vernon Creek and Tronson Road, and Chief Byron Louis says they’ve had some issues there.
“People still bring their boats right up onto the beach. They don’t do that anywhere else, why do they think they can do it on our beach?” Louis says. “Children are there. It’s a public safety issue.”
He’d like to see the city help install buoys to prevent boats from driving onto the beach. The band is also concerned about the number of people bringing dogs to the beach.
“Animals are not, and have never been, allowed on the beach,” Louis says, adding that with children around, and people walking bare foot, dogs present issues.
The band is hoping to work with the city to get signage installed on the beach, as well as more garbage cans.
“It’s not a right, it’s a privilege to use the beach. The public has been using that beach basically at the good grace of the Okanagan Indian Band,” Louis says. “At the end of the day, what we’re really after is respect.”
Because the beach is used by both band members and residents of Vernon, Louis says it makes sense to partner with the city on making the beach cleaner and safer. Because the band office is located on Westside Road, a good distance from the beach on Lakeshore Road, Louis says it’s more logical to contract maintenance work to the city than for band employees to drive all the way out there.
While city bylaws do not apply on band land, a maintenance agreement with the city could lead to changes.
Officials also discussed the issue of people trespassing at the Goose Lake Range on reserve lands, Louis says.
“It’s not just an issue of trespassing but of safety,” Louis says. “There are buried UXO (unexploded military explosives) there.”
Officials also talked about joint tourism initiatives like the Okanagan rail trail.
“I think there’s a lot of issues we can look at jointly where it’s a benefit to both parties,” Louis says of the discussions.
Vernon Mayor Akbal Mund is pleased to be working closely with the Okanagan Indian Band and feels it’s extremely likely an agreement will be worked out for Kin Beach.
“We got a good vibe out of that meeting,” Mund says.
Right now, the city does not have the authority to go onto the beach for maintenance purposes or safety reasons. Currently, if there is an accident on the portion of the beach that falls on the reserve, the city’s emergency responders cannot respond.
“Vernon has to sit back basically,” Mund says.
He feels a mutual agreement would be of benefit to all citizens in the community.
“We at the City of Vernon value our friendship with our neighbours at the Okanagan Indian Band and I look forward to many years of collaboration and growth,” he says. "We can work together to promote cultural tourism for the entire region."
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