KELOWNA - For those wanting to walk along Kelowna’s foreshore, here’s a heads-up, you can’t.
The foreshore is the strip of land between the water and the high water mark. Although considered public land, many lakeside residents have constructed fences or barricades preventing public access.
Creating an unobstructed walkway along the City’s lakefront has been a topic of conversation for years. However, at a time where numerous docks have been destroyed due to historic lake levels, many Kelowna residents are calling for enforcement on the issue.
“Now is the perfect time, things have to be rebuilt anyways, so why not build them to code,” says Kelowna resident Brenda Bachmann.
Bachmann feels so strongly about the issue that she hired a drone to capture what Kelowna’s foreshore currently looks like. The results surprised her.
“I wasn’t expecting that much attention, I didn’t really think it would be that bad,” she said. “But after I saw the video, I was shocked by what I saw.”
The six and a half minute video has garnered over 7,600 views on YouTube, and has helped raise public awareness on the lack of lakefront enforcement. It shows numerous docks without stairs on either side to ensure public access, as well as fences and barricades completely preventing access.
“The lake belongs to everyone, and everyone has the legal ability to walk along its foreshore,” said PLANKelowna founder Al Janusas. PLANKelowna stands for Pandosy Lakeshore Active Neighbourhoods of Kelowna.
Janusas moved to Kelowna two and a half years ago and was discouraged when he found out that walking along Okanagan Lake was nearly impossible.
“I know I’m not alone in enjoying walking along beaches - it’s a really common thing that people want to do, and it’s a really small percentage that is stopping the overwhelming majority,” he says.
Over the past year and a half, Janusas says he has made hundreds of phone calls and e-mails trying to get to the bottom of the situation, but so far nothing has been done.
“No enforcement has taken place,” he says. “Just by looking at these lakefront properties, you get an idea of the amount of wealth these people have, and wealthy people tend to have more of an influence. I would like all of us to be equally influential.”
For the District of Lake Country, preserving their foreshore is not only important, but necessary.
“We want to keep the foreshore as accessible as possible for the public,” says Mayor James Baker. “Not to say that there can’t be docks, but as long as there are steps up and over them that don’t impede on peoples passage.”
According to Baker, the District has stopped people from putting up fences and barricades that obstruct public access.
“It’s frustrating for people who don’t own lakeshore property to not be able to access beaches or walk along them,” he says. “One of the things we’re trying to do in our community at the moment is to get wheelchair access to our foreshore.”
For people like Bachmann and Janusas, they realize taking on the entirety of Kelowna’s foreshore is a daunting task, so for now they’re focussing on the portion from William R. Bennett Bridge to Mission Creek.
“The best we can hope for is what we have from City Park to Rotary Beach, and actually be able to connect with the Greenway,” says Bachmann.
Bachmann says she is planning a walk the foreshore event later this summer to raise awareness of the issue.
“I thought it would be nice to have a celebration of the foreshore,” she says. “It would start at Mushroom Beach and hopefully we can make it to Rotary Beach, nothing confrontational, just a pleasant walk along the water.”
Neither the City of Kelowna nor Mayor Colin Basran responded to requests for an interview on this topic.
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