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Beach walk announced to reclaim Okanagan foreshore

An official date for Walk the Beach Kelowna has been set. The purpose of the walk is to create awareness around property owners who are infringing on public beach areas. In the end, the group hopes to reclaim the Okanagan Lake foreshore.

On August 27th, at 1 p.m., walkers will gather in City Park and walk five kilometres along the waterfront to Rotary Park.

"I'll be taking photos along the way," said Brenda Bachmann, spokesperson for the walk. "We're expecting to get wet. We're going to suggest that people wear their swimsuits, and we're also inviting paddle boards, kayaks and canoes. It's a friendly family event."

Bachmann also plans to use the walk to map the location of property lines. "To see where the foreshore is overlapping with what is there now," she said. "So that each section that we go through we actually have on the map system and are aware of what the approximate lot lines are."

Reclaiming the foreshore has been on Bachmann's mind for about 10 years. Bachmann's parents were both born and raised in Kelowna, and she comes from two pioneer families in the Okanagan.

She remembers being able to walk the beaches and then every few years, there were more barricades. After an incident on one of her regular runs, Bachmann insisted that she would do something about it.

<who> Photo Credit: KelownaNow

"Part of my run included two blocks of the foreshore between two parks, and that's what I used to run right along the water's edge," she said.

"One day I came up to a fence that had been newly constructed since my last run and it was going right into the water, so I went to climb over the fence because I didn't want to get my running shoes wet. A guy came out and yelled at me, and he told me to stay off his fence and stay away from his property."

At the time, 10 years ago, she turned around and went back, even though she knew that he couldn't legally keep people off the public shore with a fence.

"At that point I said someday I'm going to do something about this," she said.

While she's tried over the years, nothing has worked until recently. She had the idea to use a drone and capture footage of just how many property owners were blocking off foreshore areas along Okanagan Lake that are open to the public.

"A picture is worth a thousand words, so I decided to hire a drone operator, I wasn't expecting to see what I found," she said.

The drone footage was released at the end of May and garnered a lot of conversation.

According to Al Janusas, the flood became the perfect opportunity to address the issue. Since the flood, many of the docks that were blocking the foreshore were washed away or damaged in some way. Property owners will be starting to rebuild soon, and he said that now is the time to get proper builds monitored.

"Everything's flooded right now, but before things flooded there were a lot of structures that blocked people from the foreshore. The public is legally allowed to walk along the foreshore in Kelowna and pretty much anywhere else in Canada," said Janusas.

"The problem is that the Province gave permission for people to erect private docks across the foreshore and into the publicly owned lake," he said.

Another condition he said that the Province has is if docks are over a certain height, then there must be stairs on either side of the dock for people to climb over the dock and continue down the foreshore.

"None of the docks between the bridge and Mission Creek have those in place," he said. "Because of the flooding that took place, we look at this as a fresh start that nature has given to us."

Janusas said the group, PLANKelowna wants the province's natural resource officers (NRO) to start enforcing provincial laws that apply to the foreshore. The group also wants the NRO to monitor the demolition and reconstruction of the docks taking place over the next few weeks.

"The problem is that there aren't enough NRO to go around, they have a lot of other jobs to do as well as policing the foreshore, "Janusas said. "I want Mayor Basran to formally ask the province to make sure that the applicable laws are conformed to while this demolition and reconstruction happens."

Bachmann said she's had plenty of support from waterfront property owners who also like the idea of being able to "walk along the beaches in the morning with a coffee" without barricades.

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