Phone calls and emails are pouring in, thanking Coun. Lisa Cameron for her role in finally getting 16 private structures removed from the public beach in Okanagan Centre.
"It's been quite heartening for me," said Cameron who has lived in Okanagan Centre for the past 12 years. Municipal staff are now removing the structures, which is sparking plenty of controversy.
Eight or 10 residents with their sheds and boat houses on the public beach "are very vocal, trying to say they represent the majority but it's clearly not," said Cameron.
"This is something they felt entitled to and it's been taken away."
Lake Country council passed two resolutions to remove the 16 structures.
"Our parks committee asked us to follow our own parks bylaw. Finally, we are ensuring that the public owns this beach," said Cameron.
Stephen Banmen, Lake Country's deputy chief administrative officer, said Thursday afternoon the municipal crew removed nine "old houses" and seven platforms.
"Probably over the coming weeks and months, they'll go down there on their regular rounds when they have time just to finish picking up any smaller items that still might be around. "They picked up a lot of stuff, 13 trips to the landfill. They were even picking up a lot of nails and bolts off the ground to make sure the green space was safe."
The crew left two boathouses. One older boathouse will be examined by members of the Lake Country Heritage and Cultural Society to determine if it has any heritage value. Power was still connected to the other; the owner wants to disconnect and relocate the power line before the structure is dismantled, said Banmen.
He wasn't sure if there were any concrete foundations left in the ground. The seven docks not removed during a sweep two or three years ago have provincial licences with varying expiry dates. Last year, Lake Country asked provincial officials to extend the leases to September of this year. They can be removed by residents or signed over to the district. In the latter case, they would be evaluated for location and condition for removal or public use. Some residential properties on the lake have their own legal docks on private property, he noted.
Like the majority of other property owners there, Cameron lives across the road from the public beach, didn't ever consider it her beach and has never erected anything there.
"Personally, I don't understand it. The funny thing is all of this media attention has been because of these residents. They're the ones that called the media. I just think: aren't you embarrassed? It's not your property and yet you're trying to claim it as your own and just using every excuse in the book.
"I live across the street from the beach too. My husband and I are just thankful every day that we have access to this. Sure it gets busy but what public beach doesn't get busy in the summer here?"
In an interview with a reporter, one resident claimed Lake Country didn't even own the waterfront until 2006, she noted. "Actually, that's not true. When we became a municipality in 1995, we assumed all ownership of public parks and recreational spaces that were the regional district's," said Cameron.
Those who erected the illegal structures kept asking for consultation, which Cameron perceived as simply a delaying tactic.
"We did do a lot of consultation, the council in 2007. The overwhelming majority of residents that were interviewed (in a survey) said: 'Take out all of the private structures from the public beach.' They (residents with structures) just chose to ignore it. These citizens were led to believe, mistakenly from previous councils, that somehow this was OK."