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McDONALD: Fighting for your right to walk Kelowna's beaches

October 06, 2017 - 2:46 PM

 


OPINION


It’s not hard to forget about Kelowna’s beaches right now, even if you’re standing on one. The rocks and sand no longer hold summer’s heat. The water lapping at their edges is dark with none of summer’s invitation.

But Al Janusas isn’t forgetting about Kelowna’s beaches or your right to access them. All of them.

While most of us are thinking ahead no further than Christmas, Janusas is already planning how to make foreshore lake access a municipal election issue in October, 2018.

Janusas and Kelowna realtor Brenda Bachmann organized this summer’s Walk the Beach protest where demonstrators showed just how much illegal encroachment by lakeshore property owners has occured on Okanagan Lake.

It wasn’t hard to bring out a couple of hundred people on a bright summer’s day for an issue that has long rankled; why do wealthy property owners get away with building illegal fences and docks and denying Kelowna residents their legal access to the foreshore?

The challenge for Janusas now is to keep up the momentum he and Bachmann have created and harness it to enact real change. Especially when the beaches, right now, are largely empty.

“I know not a lot of people aren't paying attention right now and won’t be until next summer,” he says, on the phone from his home near the Pandosy town centre.

When you first meet Janusas, you will notice a certain tenacity about him (he’s a retired firefighter) and is using it in his campaign to keep this issue to the forefront.

He’s been pressing the city any way he can, through staff, through councillors for the city to pluck what he calls low-hanging fruit; a simple pathway on land the city already owns between the Royal Avenue beach access and Strathcona park

Janusas says ownership and riparian access are not an issue and the city has budgeted money for its development but can’t proceed without provincial approval that has so far not been forthcoming.

“The problem is they’ve been waiting for years and they seem content to wait,” he grouses. “Why they would put up with a lack or response from the province for this long is beyond me. I don’t know why they can’t get off their fat asses and get this done.”

Janusas doesn’t completely disagree with my suggestion: That the city ignore the province and build it anyway, the same as some lakeshore property owners who have built fences right into the lake.

“They wouldn’t have the manpower to go after them, just like they say they don’t have it to go after the illegal docks and walls,” he laughs.

Janusas says he’s offered to put the lobbying power of his group behind the city, calling, sending emails, texting who ever could influence the decision but was politely turned down.

He’s still hoping the change in provincial government may make a difference on what is clearly a populist issue but they still haven’t called back.

“I keep getting the same automated replies from (Premier John) Horgan as I got from the Liberals,” he laughs. “But it’s early yet for them and I’m sure they have a lot of other things to deal with right now.”

— John McDonald is a long-time reporter, editor and photographer from the Central Okanagan with a strong curiosity about local affairs. You can reach him at jmcdonald@infonews.ca.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2017
InfoTel News Ltd

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