If 23 Mara Lake waterfront property owners don’t apply for permits from the Shuswap North Okanagan Rail Trail, the province could have their docks removed.

No time limit has been set for them to apply for those permits but the Columbia Shuswap Regional District, through a news release, has put the disgruntled owners on notice.

“If they don’t have permits, then the province can remove the docks,” Derek Sutherland, general manager for community and protective services for the Columbia Shuswap Regional District, told iNFOnews.ca. “It’s the ultimate consequence, I guess. But nobody is wanting it to get there and nobody is hoping it gets there.”

The docks were legally built over the years when CN Rail operated the 50-kilometre branch line from Sicamous to Armstrong but the owners needed permits for their docks and access across the rail line.

The decommissioned rail line's new owners are converting it into a rail trail for cyclists and walkers, and asked the property owners to “validate their encroachments,” the news release said.

In 2021, the dock owners fought back against the terms of the validation process proposed and formed a group called the BC Dock Owners Coalition. It issued a press release saying, among other things, that the rail line owners were actually planning to build a commuter train “mega project.”

READ MORE: 'Fake news': Shuswap lobby group calls rail trail project a 'sham'

The press release and similar comments remain on the coalition’s website.

“What the dock owners have asked us to do, through an ombudsperson’s report, was to make a few of the conditions easier,” Sutherland said.

The regional district created a permit system that included a 10-year term with a two-year termination notice period.

Even after that change, no one has yet to apply for a permit.

“The permitting process is still fairly new,” Sutherland said. “We do have some inquiries about applications so we do expect to get a bit of a deluge of applications here shortly.”

Given the comments made by some of the dock owners at a Feb. 14, District of Sicamous public hearing that deluge may not happen.

At that meeting, held to consider rezoning land along the rail line so the trail could be built, some dock owners called for a pause until they got the permit dispute sorted out and they specifically referenced the termination clause.

The district council refused to rezone the land, meaning the rail trail can’t be built through that, roughly 1 km section.

READ MORE: North Okanagan rail trail will be 1 km short after Sicamous council refused approval

In response, the regional district issued a press release saying it will start trail construction 1.5 km south of the intended start point next to Highway 1. Now it will begin at the southern border of Sicamous where it meets Splatsin Indian Reserve #3.

The rezoning and the permits are not directly connected since, if the land is rezoned, the trail can be built even if no permits are issued for the docks.

“To date, the private property owners have not obtained authorization to legitimize their foreshore use, which leaves the three ownership jurisdictions in a position to advise the Province of BC that these dock owners do not own land upland of the foreshore,” the regional district said in a news release.

The docks, where they are secured to the shore, are actually located on the rail trail right-of-way. That section is owned by the Columbia Shuswap Regional District. The rest of the line is owned by the Splatsin First Nation and the North Okanagan Regional District.

While Sutherland insisted there's no intention to have the docks removed, that power ultimately exists if the owners don’t get permits whether the land is rezoned or not.

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