By Steve Hubrecht

[email protected]

Even with several wildfires burning relatively close by, the Columbia Valley continues to see a steady stream of tourists. In Invermere that means Kinsmen Beach, and its parking lot, continue to be crowded.

The District of Invermere is asking locals and visitors alike to walk or ride their bikes to the beach when possible, and when they do drive to heed the ‘no parking signs’ in the neighbourhood around Kinsmen Beach.

Parking has always been tight at Kinsmen Beach during particularly busy summer days, but over the last few years, as the full-time population and the number of visitors has jumped up, the parking lot has  become completely full a good deal more often. That’s left people parking on both sides of the gravel stretch of 18th Street (which runs from the parking lot over to Pynelogs and beyond), and filling the every conceivable parking spot on the streets around Dorothy Lake and the Station Pub.

Some disgruntled residents have voiced frustration about being blocked in their driveways, or at seeing fire hydrants blocked.

“Kinsmen Beach is very popular, so it’s always packed. Yet just a little ways away there is some available parking,” Invermere mayor Al Miller told the Pioneer last week.  

He pointed to the gravel parking area at the Pynelogs Rotary Ball Park and the tennis courts, noting it is only a few minutes walk from there to the beach.

Miller adding that if that parking is full, people can always opt to try the beach at James Chabot Provincial Park instead. The beach there is also beautiful, and although it is popular too, it’s nowhere near as busy as Kinsmen Beach and consequently there’s usually plenty of empty parking spots, he said.

“It does get very full at Kinsmen. But we need people to respect residents’ driveways. And please don’t park on both sides of the gravel road (18th Street). If needed to get an emergency vehicle down there quickly, it wouldn’t happen with cars parked on both sides of the road. They (emergency services crews) need good access,” said Miller.

The busy beach at Kinsmen shows the clear demand for waterfront green space and that helped spur Invermere council’s decision, several years ago, to purchase the former Lake Windermere Resort Lands in Athalmer, he explained. “That’s the reason we felt we needed to buy those 15 acres. We don’t have any more room at Kinsmen Beach – we can’t increase the green space there. But when we saw another opportunity (the Lake Windermere Resort Lands) to increase park space elsewhere in the district, we had to take it,” said Miller.

The district plans to turn the Lake Windermere Resort Lands primarily into park land, he added. “We didn’t buy it for parking.”