Access to water
By Chad Ingram
Published Jan. 24. 2019
When I was a reporter in Osoyoos, B.C., there was a town councillor who’d made it his mission to see the municipality reclaim a number of public lake accesses that had, over time, been . . . let’s say usurped by neighbouring property owners.
Osoyoos is a small town located on a large lake of the same name and, according to planning documents, there should have been many more public access points than there appeared to be. I remember getting into my car with said documents and driving around the lake’s shoreline looking for those access points. Indeed, some seemed to have become part of abutting properties, and in a couple of cases, I was told by people to get off of “their” property.
Water, and access to it, is a perennial conversation for municipal councils in any lakeland community. Last week, Algonquin Highlands council discussed a couple of situations involving access to water. Both of these situations included complicated confluences of public and private property and issues of trespassing. In one case on Maple Lake, it seems that much of that trespassing is likely unwitting, people accessing the lake at a long-used site, a site that is actually privately owned.
Councillors in Minden Hills in recent months have heard delegations from groups involving a proposal to open up a township-owned road allowance at the end of Murdoch Road as a public access to Gull Lake. One group wants the township to open up that road allowance (it currently contains vegetation) to provide access to the lake, particularly for the purposes of putting in and accessing ice fishing huts during the winter. A privately owned road allowance near the water was once used for the purpose, but that private property has now been fenced by its owner. The other group, comprised of property owners at the lake, is asking the township to leave the road allowance unopened.
At a Dysart et al council meeting earlier this week, there was discussion about the possible sale of a township-owned road allowance to a property owner at Kennisis Lake – not a shoreline road allowance stretching across the front of waterfront property, but an unopened road allowance leading to the lake.The township’s deputy mayor expressed a fundamental opposition to the concept, saying that just because there was not a public need for use of the property currently, that didn’t mean there wouldn’t be in the future.
Haliburton County’s lakes are everything, they are central not only to its economy and in attracting visitors, but also to the community’s way of life. While most of the property surrounding most lakes is privately owned, lakes themselves are of course publicly owned by the federal government. It is a never-ending balancing act for municipal councils in Haliburton County and communities like it to preserve the rights of private property owners to enjoy and protect their properties, while ensuring the public still has adequate and safe access to waterbodies – not just now, but for generations to come.