By James Rose
On Lake Windermere’s eastern shoreline, nestled between Terra Vista and Akiskinook, there is the small community of Calberly Beach. Calbery’s beach is sandy and shallow. It’s spectacular. On the entire eastern side of the lake, sandy beaches with sandy, weed free lake bottoms occur only in select locations: Indian Beach, Windermere, Ya Ko Naki, Akiskinook, Calberly, Terra Vista, Baltac Bay, and Timber Ridge. Only three of the eight, Calberly, Windermere and Baltac Bay, provide upland public access to the lakeshore. The rest are adjacent to private property, restricting public access.
To arrive at Calberly Beach, you turn off the main highway at about the Centex gas station and onto a road called Highway Drive. This road runs east to west. The Calberly community is located at the west end of this road. Before reaching the road’s terminus, you drive past Stoddart Avenue running north-south. Calberly Beach a dense community. It’s old Windermere. It was first developed something like seventy years ago. There are upland and lakefront lots. The lakefront has nine lots. The lakefront homes are big and beautiful. Worth millions.
The original developer of Calberly included a north-south running public right of way that extends from one end of Calberly beach to the other. It’s about 600 feet long, 70 feet wide. For reasons unknown, the developer named the right of way “Boulevard” and it is owned presently by B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI). The Boulevard is directly in front of the nine lakefront properties. It is in between the lake and the subdivision, zoned R-1.
The paved portion of Highway Drive ends at an intersection. From the intersection, you can turn left or right onto another paved road that is also called Highway Drive. Or, you can continue down an unpaved pathway wide enough to fit a standard vehicle. This unpaved pathway is the public access to the lakeshore. Once you get to the end of this pathway, you can continue travelling west so long as you don’t mind getting wet.
The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken. Slowly but surely, through the decades and years, there has been a gradual encroachment committed by the nine lakefront property owners onto the Boulevard. Today, the encroachment is so pronounced that if you were to go to Calberly Beach, you would not know that the manicured lawns, retaining walls, beach staircases, designer landscapes of the nine lots are, in fact, on the Boulevard. And not just a sliver of encroachment. More than 80% of the Boulevard. It used to be worse. In recent years, a pump house, boathouses, boat lifts, and docks have been removed as an attempt to reduce encroachment.
In other words, what looks like a private property is actually my property, your property and the property of the rest of B.C.’s five million-odd residents. Encroachment is against the law, and of course, the MoTI knows this. At this late stage in the game, if you’re Lindsey McKinnon, Senior Development Services Manager at the MoTI, you have one of two choices to remedy: encourage an application to the MoTI from the encroachers to close portions of the road; or force the removal of the land improvements and return the land to the way it once was.
Currently, there is an application from the nine lakefront lot owners working its way through the system. Right now, it’s in the referral stage, as it’s known. If approved, the proposal will consolidate the closed portions of the Boulevard with the adjoining upland private residential properties. The land added to each lot, formerly Boulevard land, would be purchased from the MoTI at a market value determined by a certified appraiser. It’s a long process for how an application like this works its way through the system.
But there will come a time, likely in November, when the RDEK Board of Directors will decide whether they support the application. The RDEK Board takes into consideration the opinions of a variety of advisory committees. It’s why, after I sought comment from Area F Director Susan Clovechok, she said: “At this time it is not appropriate for me to discuss this application as the MoTI Referral has not yet come before the RDEK Board of Directors and as such I am still gathering information that will assist me making an informed decision.”
If the RDEK Board wishes to support the application, the application will then face public scrutiny. That’s when you will see “Disposition of Land” type notices in the Pioneer. There will be a clearly communicated time when the public will be asked for their stance on the application. We’re just not there yet. Not until sometime in 2021 will the application have a chance to reach the public. The application could die on the vine before that point.
Already there is confusion in the Columbia Valley about what’s at stake with the application.
Last week, the Pioneer received an anonymous tip that the application threatened the closure of the shoreline public access. The unnamed person suggested I speak with long time valley resident Hermann Mauthner about the ordeal. Mauthner sits as a volunteer on the RDEK Area G Advisory Committee. His committee’s members, along with one representing Area F, were appointed by the Area Directors. They’ve been asked by the RDEK Board to give their opinion.
Mauthner is staunchly opposed to the application. He believes that the Boulevard should remain as public land. In a Sept. 22 letter to the Directors of the RDEK, Mauthner wrote: “I’m strongly opposed to have this property sold to private interests. But I am in great favour for a public recreation site that would create jobs now and in the future.”
Mauthner also believes that if the application were to succeed, there would be newly restricted access for the public to the shoreline. No longer would anyone be able to access the shoreline at Calberly without trespassing.
Representing as an agent for several of the nine lakefront owners is Richard Haworth of Haworth Development Consulting. I called him to clarify exactly the intention of the application. Haworth said it isn’t true that the application, if successful, would close shoreline access.
“Lindsay McKinnon made it very clear that this application would be a non-starter if the aim was to close public access to the shoreline,” he said. The RDEK Official Community Plan states that development along the foreshore should respect the public’s right to access it.
In the final week before the snap provincial election, I tried speaking with McKinnon at the MoTI. Danielle Pope, Media Relations, said: “Thank you for your request. During the election period, all Government of B.C. communications are limited to health and public safety information, as well as statutory requirements. Thank you for your understanding.”
Nonetheless, the application to the MoTI includes the following statement: “There have been discussions between the private landowners along Stoddart Ave and the MoTI regarding possible disposition and sale of portions of the public land to the private stakeholders for many years as a way to bring closure to the encroachment issues in this location. The Ministry’s interest in these discussions is to maintain public access to the lake and to achieve this, the Ministry is not currently considering the disposition of a 12m wide linear portion of the land which leads directly from Highway Drive to the lake.”
So, to be clear, if the application succeeds, my Boulevard, your Boulevard, your crazy uncle up in Atlin, his Boulevard, all of B.C’s Boulevard will be privatized. Land that could’ve been developed as a public beach area will officially be someone else’s front lawn. My ability to set up a beach chair, read an airport thriller, be a beach bum, I suppose I could still do that, but then I’d be breaking the law. I’d be trespassing.
But I would still be able to access the shoreline legally. I’m just not sure if I would.