Waterfront access proves problematic for residents

A Sicamous couple express concern of residential property lots extending into the water.

A fence of a Poage Avenue property extends towards Mara Lake.

A simple stroll on the beach was confounded for one Sicamous couple by the complication of residential property lots extending into the water.

Sicamous council recently received a letter from Mary and Don Rowse. In it, the couple note they just became full-time residents of the community, with property on White Pines Crescent.

They go on to explain how they hoped to have access to the beach between Archibald Street and Poage Avenue – what they understood to be Crown land – but were put off by private fencing extending along waterfront residences towards the water.

“In our attempt to go for a leisurely walk along this beach we learned that we could not gain access from either direction as there is fencing over-extending the property lines and leading a distance into the water,” write the Rowses.

Mayor Terry Rysz told the News this is an old and complicated issue, and is actually a provincial matter.

“A lot of stuff has been grandfathered in, and it’s a bit of a mess and unfortunately the way it’s been monitored and dealt with over the past 40 years or so, it hasn’t been all that desirable from my point of view because there isn’t a lot of clarity with it,” said Rysz.

Coun. Jeff Mallmes, who oversees council’s waterfront research portfolio, confirmed this is a provincial matter, but was able to provide some clarity. He explained that in the beach area of concern, and typically on most waterbodies in the province, land below the visible high water mark is typically owned by the provincial government. However, there are properties with legal lot descriptions that extend into the water, including at least those along the beach the Rowses hoped to stroll.

“They are not paying property tax on the area that is below the high water mark,” said Mallmes after speaking with the province. “They have threatened to take the Crown to court but they’ve never done it.

The Crown kind of wishes that they would so it would be established, but right now it’s just a general ruling that nobody should own anything below the high water mark.

“As soon as they go to development, as soon as they have to have a legal survey done, their lot line will pull back to the high water mark. So basically it belongs to the general public, all of it, below the high water mark.”

Mallmes recommends people wishing to confirm whether they can access a beach area call FrontCounter BC in Kamloops.

“We (the district) can have a say on the 200 feet from the shore, from the high water mark, but when it comes to actually enforcing, that would have to be done through FrontCounterBC or FLNRO (the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations).”

FrontCounter BC can be reached by calling 250-828-4131.