VERNON - There are more than 30 places in Vernon the public can access Okanagan Lake but you might not know where they are due to encroachments by neighbouring properties and no trespassing signs at some of the sites.
The city is updating its Lake Access Plan for the improvement or disposal of 39 individual sites on Okanagan Lake and will soon be seeking input from the public. Some of the sites are steep and difficult to access, while others have sandy beachfront, views and the potential to be developed into picnic areas.
Council is moving forward with public consultation on the plan, but some politicians already have their own thoughts. Coun. Juliette Cunningham says a number of adjacent property owners have encroached on the sites with things like garages, playhouses, and patios.
“What you see now is no trespassing, private property signs, even when it’s not,” Cunningham says. “That’s my concern. These are for the public.”
She wants to send a letter to every adjacent landowner telling them to remove all encroachments.
“I just think it’s quite shocking to see how many people have built structures on property that’s not theirs,” Cunningham says.
Coun. Scott Anderson agrees.
“It’s reasonable to ask people not to encroach on property that’s not theirs,” Anderson says.
But Coun. Brian Quiring says adjacent landowners are actually helping to maintain the sites and keep them clean. He believes sending them letters would be too heavy-handed.
“We (the city) don’t cut the grass, we don’t pick up the McDonald’s bags, but the adjacent landowners do in a lot of situations,” Quiring says. “If we’re not using them, at least they look okay.”
City staff have identified 13 lake accesses as being high priorities for improvement, and are looking at completing the upgrades in the next 13 years. There are 14 sites designated as medium priorities that would be completed within the next 14 to 28 years, and ten low priorities that would be improved beyond the 28 year timeframe. It's recommended that two sites be disposed of.
Cunningham would like to see the work expedited, and in the short term, have signs installed at all sites informing people they are public access.
“I believe that it’s something we have to protect,” Cunningham says. “Some of them are amazing.”
Council has directed staff to review all encroachments at the lake accesses and provide options for moving forward.
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