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Kelowna  

Wood and rebar remain 3 yrs after a Kelowna dock was destroyed

Destroyed dock a hazard

A dock near Kelowna's Burne Avenue beach access that was destroyed during the 2017 floods remains a swimming hazard three years later, and a number of local residents are at their wits end after a child scraped his back on the wreckage last weekend.

All that's left of the private dock adjacent to the public beach is broken wood and rebar jutting out from the water, after extremely high lake levels and storms destroyed hundreds of docks on Okanagan Lake in 2017. Three years later, the hazard remains.

“Most people know to stay away from that but the other day when we were there, there was a kid who didn't,” said Leanne Rockwell, who lives in the neighbourhood. “He scratched the whole length of his back on the rebar.”

Rockwell says the original dock was an L-shape, which jutted out in front of the beach access itself, so it can be unclear where exactly the remains of the dock are today.

A group of residents in the area have been trying to get someone to take care of the hazard since 2018, after  the owner of the property hadn't fixed the issue.

“I've reported it to bylaw, the province knows ... it's coming up to two years now and all the province is going to do is fine him, but no one is actually fixing the fact that it's going to hurt somebody badly,” she said.

The issue falls under the jurisdiction of the provincial government, and the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development says its “aware of the issue and has been in contact with the landowner to repair the dock or remove the pilings.”

“The Ministry has also identified the pilings as a hazard to the landowner and requested the pilings be marked to reduce risk of injury,” the Ministry said in a statement. “The issue has been raised with Ministry Compliance and Enforcement staff.”

More than three years since the damage occurred, the Ministry would not tell Castanet whether it plans to take steps to remove the hazard, or if it would be issuing any fines to the owner.

In an email to Rockwell Wednesday, Patrick Tobin, senior authorizations officer with the ministry, says the dock owner was “advised in 2018 and again in 2019 to repair their dock, or at least mark it with some form of hi-vis markers.”

That has yet to occur, so Rockwell reached out to the City of Kelowna to see if they can put up some kind of signage to warn the swimming public of the hazard. On Wednesday, the city told her they will not be doing that due to the possible liability that could come with it.

“It's not technically our responsibility to do that,” Blair Stewart, City of Kelowna's Park services manager, told Castanet. “Even though it might be an easy thing to do, once you set foot on it, put signage on it, you're kind of taking ownership of it and we're not willing to do that since it's not ours.

“When people do go in the water, they have to take on the responsibility on their own to know what's going on around them ... People need to use their own caution and common sense to be careful.”

In his email, the province's Tobin told Rockwell that 1,200-1,500 docks were damaged on Okanagan Lake during the 2017 floods, and while the government was planning on a “repair or remove” campaign during the 2020-21 fiscal year, the COVID-19 pandemic interfered with those plans.

Rockwell says it's “just excuse, after excuse, after excuse.”



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