Friday, July 28, 2017

CRWR 520 (7)

During my twelve months living in and out of Kelowna I learned that the city has two exclusive residences: along the lake and in the hills overlooking it. As I began to explore my Mission district neighbourhood last September I found myself gravitating towards the lake. My first lakeside visit was to Boyce-Gyro Beach Park, a 100 metre stretch of sod and sand named after a man named Boyce and a service group founded in 1912 who chose the name Gyro International based on the gyroscope, which is said to “maintain a desired course and attitude regardless of outside influences.”

As an “outside influence” I found it difficult to “maintain a desired course” beyond the northern and southern edges of the park, given that those who owned lakefront properties did everything they could to complicate public access. Although I have experienced similar measures taken by property owners along Malibu Beach in Southern California, nothing compares to the prohibitive sculpture and text works installed by some of Kelowna’s lakefront owners, some of whom have gone to extraordinary lengths to keep the public at bay.

Because lakefront property owners are permitted to moor their boats outside their homes, the public is often confronted with boardwalks whose design is closer to the anti-tank devices of Normandy Beach than a path from sundeck to pier. As for signage, every third house has some variant of Please respect the privacy of those living along the lake hammered into its lawn. One sign read: PLEASE DON’T LOOK AT OUR PICTURE WINDOW (of course I did). Another sign was even more invasive: DON’T EVEN THINK OF LOOKING AT OUR HOUSE!!! At which point I turned back in disgust.

With such attitudes in place, it is no wonder that the lake responded. Last April saw an unprecedented rise in water levels, erasing that thin ribbon of public beach separating the lake from its catastrophe of private homes. Suddenly those boardwalk and signpost barricades were no match for a lake that was, quite literally, rising above the public/private binary. In an effort to protect themselves, many of these homeowners constructed sandbanks.

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