EDITORIAL – Legislation, not legal battles, the solution to lake access

(Image: Facebook, Outdoor Recreation Council of B.C.)

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

WE LOVE OUR LAKES. They’re a big reason this is such a great place to live, a major part of our outdoors recreation.

But enjoyment of many of those bodies of water is in question right now as the Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club looks at challenging the latest legal decision involving a pair of lakes on Douglas Lake Cattle Company land.

A B.C. Court of Appeals decision reversed an earlier ruling that had given the public access to the lakes. The first decision was pretty simple in its rationale: lakes and the fish in those lakes belong to the public; therefore, the public has a right to access them, even over private land.

The appeals court took a different view, citing, among other things, the fact B.C. is the only province that hasn’t legislated public access over private lands.

While the dispute between the ranch and the fish and game club has been characterized in the media as a David and Goliath battle, anyone who owns a chunk of land can sympathize with the view that ownership should buy you control of who uses it.

That’s why so many “No Trespassing” signs are posted in rural areas. Frankly, I have sympathy for that point of view. On the other hand, if the Crown owns the water, shouldn’t the public be able to use it?

A couple of years ago I read a book called Walking to Camelot in which author John Cherrington describes a 300-mile hike he and a friend took through the English countryside. Such a trip wouldn’t have been possible without a public policy — a contentious one — that assures the public’s right to pass over private land.

Some say it’s a model that could be used here.

Maybe, maybe not. But the obvious solution is legislation resolving the public vs. private conundrum.

It’s an issue that deserves broad public discussion, not just lawyers and judges.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at

About Mel Rothenburger (9481 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

1 Comment on EDITORIAL – Legislation, not legal battles, the solution to lake access

  1. Tony Brumell // March 23, 2021 at 2:33 PM // Reply

    I have sympathy for the private land owner. The land they have purchased from the government that stole it from First Nations should be theirs to use. Tresspass is just that, accessing private land without the owners permission. We ( the non first Nations folk ) have been doing just that for 160 years. If we were to compensate the owners of the land we must pay for it. Ergo I believe that the best legal solution is for Government to purchase a legal right of way (at reasonable rates for the land owner) and allow the public to access the lake (all lakes in BC.) Gov’t may then build a road for the general public. Mr moneybags can go buy a small chunk of Belize if he wants but BC will not be sold to foreign buyers. At least not for their exclusive use .

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