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‘What’s up dock’: Questions loom over rail trail access in Sicamous

Dock owners want the same rail trail crossing agreements as agricultural sector
Sicamous semi-waterfront property owners belonging to a group calling itself the B.C. Dock Owners Coalition are continuing their efforts to secure access to their docks along Mara Lake, with an appeal for Sicamous council’s help at the Jan. 24 meeting. (Natalie Sorkilmo photo)

“We’ve hit a crossroads where clearly the District of Sicamous needs to intervene on behalf of us.”

BC Dock Owners Coalition member Jeremy Fehr, along with Randy McDonald, attended the Jan. 24 council meeting to request an intervention in helping upland and semi-waterfront property owners secure dock access across Shuswap North Okanagan Rail Trail.

The issue has been an ongoing negotiation between owners of properties along the rail trail and the Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD), one of the trail owners. Fehr said the latest offer has “significant unequal treatment of affected parties.”

Agriculture owners have been offered crossing agreements with no expiry or cost and commercial owners 25-year terms with automatic renewals, while residential owners would have 10-year terms (that may be cancelled after two years) with no renewal, at an annual fee of $1,000.

McDonald added the coalition has documentation that CSRD staff and directors have stated docks shouldn’t be allowed on Mara Lake.

“We need to ask ourselves why should these docks be removed. Who’s benefiting from this?” he questioned. “These docks have been here for 50 years. Those docks existed when there was an active railway running… so why now? So there’s something going on.”

Both Fehr and McDonald said the coalition isn’t against the rail trail being built, they just want the same access rights other groups have.

“I think it’s very simple to ask for the CSRD to give us the same provisions and the same agreement that the agricultural community is getting,” McDonald said, asking that council make it a condition when they approve the required rezoning for the trail. “Certainly none of us want any delay or stoppage of the construction; the simple solution is to make it subject to us receiving the same conditions… then it’s done, it’s over.”

Council was sympathetic to their issue, and couldn’t understand discrepancy. Mayor Colleen Anderson, however, said the CSRD has accommodated the dock owner’s requests, such as a longer crossing agreement terms, and that she doesn’t think they want to remove docks, nor can they.

“We do have bylaws in Sicamous, and our bylaws are that we do allow docks,” she said. “So, they can’t come into Sicamous and just remove docks.”

Coun. Gord Bushell pointed out it is a bit more complicated though, given there is some crossover.

“It is unique where it’s our bylaws but the CSRD has final say, and that’s where the problem lies,” said Bushell. “I don’t know how… but it’s got to be figured out. It’s just not right.

“You guys have been here for a long time and you’re a part of our community and you pay good taxes. I support you 100 per cent.”

The rail trail rezoning to park designation will take place at the Feb. 14 meeting, with a public hearing prior to the council vote.

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About the Author: Heather Black

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