Land-owners on Crown Royal and Emerald Islands in Lac La Hache will have to find another place to park their cars and boat trailers overnight next summer.
In a narrow 9-7 vote, the Cariboo Regional District on Friday denied a request by the Crown Royal and Emerald Islands Society to improve the existing public access, located off Highway 97 on the former Lazy R Ranch, to provide overnight parking for island land-owners. Despite a public petition in support of the project – and plans by the society to pay $12,000 for the upgrade, CRD directors argued it wasn’t their problem.
“The provincial government screwed up, now the provincial government wants the regional government to fix it,” 100 Mile Mayor Mitch Campsall said. “It’s another form of downloading. We should be petitioning the province to look after their mess.”
The situation stems from the late 1960s when the islands’ developer failed to adhere to the province’s stipulation to put in offshore parking to accommodate the 18 lots on the two islands. Land-owner Tim Kwaswnicki, who has had a lot on Crown Royal Island since 1985, said parking has only become an issue in the last few years as more people started building cabins on the islands.
At the moment, most land-owners park at the Fircrest Lakeside RV Resort but they will lose access to that site next summer as it is becoming busier and can no longer accommodate them, he said.
“We don’t have a next step,” he said. “In our mind, we’d like to see that site developed for everybody with a boat launch and improvements.”
Al Richmond, director for Lac La Hache-108 Mile Ranch, was one of the few directors in favour of the parking plan, noting the landowners had gone through a lengthy process and the petition met the threshold set by the provincial government. However, other directors raised concerns about the process, which is different from a referendum in that those in favour of a proposal are asked to register their support and those opposed do nothing. In this case, 50 percent of individual land-owners were in favour of the project along with 60 percent of assessed value in approval – meeting the provincial threshold.
However, a woman who owns seven lots argued her neighbours were opposed to the plan, arguing it could turn the public access into a gated boat launch. Under the petition, her assessed value rated lower than the others’ because most of her property is bare land; however, in a referendum, she would have only had one vote, Richmond noted.
“It’s not a boat launch. This is public property and it needs improvement so they can park on it and not get bogged down in mud,” he said. “What’s disappointing about all this is the Ministry of Transportation and Highways had made a condition upon the developer that they had to provide offshore parking and he didn’t follow through. It’s unfortunate.”