Why is it that success can sometimes lead to conflict and possible failure? That is certainly the case at Gardom Lake, where a strong sense of community spirit has resulted in decades of successful management of the 40-acre community park that includes a beach, two islands and a ballpark.
Although hundreds of people enjoy the well-kept grounds and beach access, a disgruntled few who would prefer seeing half the beach area turned into a boat launch have likely pushed the provincial government to end its support for this community gem.
The history of the park dates back to the mid-1960s, when ownership of the property reverted to the Crown because of unpaid back taxes. Realizing the property’s recreational values, the government of the day in its wisdom created a Class C Park that was managed by a local park board. In the early 1990s, the BC Liberal government decided to cancel Class C parks, and when the CSRD did not want to manage it, government staff provided a licence to the community.
For over two decades, the Gardom Lake Park Society has been doing a fabulous job of maintaining the park, as well as making significant infrastructure improvements.
Using yearly grants from the CSRD that covers insurance fees, maintenance costs and some capital improvements, the society not only kept the grounds and structures clean and tidy, it has also added new walking trails, new stairs, picnic tables, benches, floats, a swimming platform, handicap washrooms, a diving platform and a wharf. The budget was kept to a minimum, because volunteers did much of the work.
Although one might think that the Park Society’s vision of providing a safe and peaceful recreational setting with minimal environmental impacts would be a motherhood issue, there are others in the community who believe that improving their ability to launch boats should be the priority. This issue, along with growing concern about increasing impacts to water quality, resulted in a planning process for the entire watershed in 2014 that was funded by the CSRD and facilitated by the Fraser Basin Council.
Another key organization that has been working to protect all values in the sensitive watershed is the Gardom Lake Stewardship Society (formerly Friends of Gardom Lake). In addition to helping bring stakeholders together for the planning process, members of the group initiated a petition in the early 1990s that eventually resulted in the federal government banning gasoline motors on the lake. Key to the success of achieving the ‘electric motors only’ status for the 75-hectare lake was the support from the CSRD.
Related: 2017 – Protecting Gardom Lake
The planning process that began in December 2014 involved provincial ministries, First Nations, local organizations, farmers, fishing groups and the Gardom Lake Bible Camp. It achieved consensus on many objectives, including lake water quality monitoring, inventorying septic systems, developing a restoration plan, and educating local residents and visitors about the need to protect flora, fauna and the riparian ecosystems. The only issue where there was no agreement was trailered boat access.
Given the lack of support for adding a boat launch to the park, the group recommended improving the launch at Teal Road and making improvements to the hand launch at Musgrave Road. Subsequently, the provincial government and the CSRD made the recommended improvements, including signage, installing privacy fencing, road paving, and installing garbage/recycling bins and washrooms.
Despite these improvements, some residents continued to bring complaints to the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations. No reason was given for the ministry’s decision to not renew the licence for the park, but it is possible that the continued discord over the boat launch issue was the cause. If the CSRD takes over the management of the park, the cost to operate it will increase five-fold as volunteers would no longer be doing the majority of the work.
Community spirit flourishes in the Shuswap and Gardom Lake is one example where local residents volunteer extensively to improve their quality of life. Unfortunately, provincial government staff have failed to appreciate these efforts and would prefer that the regional district take over responsibility of this gem of a park. We can only hope that the values that so many residents have worked so hard to protect will continue to be preserved.