It came as a pleasant surprise to learn that Lake Windermere’s neighbour to the south — Columbia Lake — has its own equivalent to the Lake Windermere Ambassadors, formed organically out of a perceived need to protect this incredibly unique and precious lake.
Unlike Lake Windermere, development around the shores of Columbia Lake has been curtailed, in part due to large lakeside tracts of conservation lands, in part geography and a smaller population base.
But as we’ve read in Canal Flats Mayor Ute Juras’ recent Regional Rundown column, the Village of Canal Flats is looking at rebranding itself to attract more residents and visitors to develop the necessary infrastructure that a small community needs in order to grow. And one of the most appealing and marketable features of Canal Flats is its extraordinary location at the source of the mighty Columbia.
The fourth largest river in North America, the Columbia produces the most hydroelectric power with 14 dams plus more on its tributaries. But from its source at Columbia Lake, the Columbia doesn’t encounter its first dam until it reaches the Mica Damnorth of Revelstoke, making this first section more pristine than any other on its long journey. And given this section is home to the internationally recognized Columbia Wetlands, protection is indisputable, and groups like the Lake Windermere Ambassadors, and now the Columbia Lake Stewardship Society, are absolutely necessary. Yet protection must balance with recreational needs that ultimately form the basis of tourism destination economies, and while Lake Windermere is a laudable example of such a balance, management of Columbia Lake — with its largely undeveloped setting and scarce motorized activity — should aim even higher. Maintaining the $20 user fee for the Canal Flats public boat launch (while potentially offering valley residents a locals’ discount) and looking at alternating days for motorized and non-motorized lake users — something once considered for Lake Windermere — could form the basis of a plan that would protect the Columbia’s source from so many of the problems that plague recreational lakes in B.C. today.