Beachgoers complain Kelowna public beaches being treated as private property

KELOWNA – It’s what many people love about the Okanagan valley: the many beaches for the public to use and enjoy. However, some beachgoers say homeowners are blocking their way when they try to walk along much of Kelowna’s lakeshore.

“[There is] a chain-linked fence extending well out into the water and you have docks over here that clearly prevent people from walking along the foreshore,” says Kelowna resident Al Janusas.

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Janusas moved to Kelowna with his wife last year. He says for about eight months, he’s been trying to get enforcement of the obstruction of the public foreshore.

He went to the city, only to learn that it is a provincial issue and that there are a handful of lakefront property owners that are illegally obstructing access to the public foreshore.

“I think it is unfair that a wealthy, very small percentage of wealthy people are illegally hogging the use of a lot of the waterfront in Kelowna,” says Janusas.

Longtime Kelowna resident, Debarah Bulford, agrees with Janusas.

“I think that the beachfront is a public access and I think that everybody in the community should have the benefit of enjoying it,” says Bulford.

However, lakefront home owner Bill Ferguson says sometimes they’re left with no other option.

“I completely agree with the idea of being able to block it off… [people] come here and use our dock thinking it’s just here for their use because of such easy access off of Gyro [beach] and that’s just wrong,” says Ferguson.

Ferguson says the obstructions on the public foreshore are only to protect homeowners.

“Protect themselves from liability and lawsuits from drunken kids falling off their dock in between the boat and then getting sued,” says Ferguson.

In an e mail statement, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations told Global News that “the ministry’s compliance and enforcement branch is aware that some residents have erected fences and other structures on Okanagan Lake without authority. Natural Resource Officers have taken enforcement responses on many of these non-compliances.”

The ministry says some of those non-compliance cases have come to its attention through public complaints.

Janusas and Bulford agree that there’s a bottom line.

“I understand vandalism, etc… but I think that the obstruction of fences and wharves and everything has actually taken away the beauty of the city,” says Bulford.

As for the concerns of lakefront homeowners, the City of Kelowna says there is signage up at foreshore access points advising the public of prohibited activities on the beach and that enforcement is in place to prevent people from breaking the rules.

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