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Reinstatement of lake access in Skead receives mixed reviews

The pro- and anti-boat launch communities are at odds following Mayor Brian Bigger’s successful motion at this week’s city council meeting to remove the boulders from the end of Poupore Road West in Skead, which are currently blocking access to Lake Wanapitei

The decision of city council to reopen a boat launch in Skead that offers access to Lake Wanapitei is receiving mixed reviews from area residents and lake users this week. 

Area residents who lobbied for the unofficial boat launch to close are disappointed.

Lake users who access the lake from the cul-de-sac at the end of Poupore Road West, and lobbied for the site to reopen, are satisfied.

A permanent solution via public consultation that factors in both sides has been delayed until next year, so there’s no alternative, such as the potential creation of a new site nearby, for the time being. 

“We’re really disappointed in the mayor’s disregard for our safety – total disregard for our safety,” area resident Sandra Foley told following this week’s decision.

Foley headed a 26-name petition that resulted in the city installing 29 boulders at the end of Poupore Road West to block lake access late last year. Their chief concern relates to people parking their vehicles along the road, which can block access to their driveways and limit access by emergency vehicles. “No parking” signs along this stretch of road are routinely ignored, they said, and enforcement has been hard to come by.

Shortly after the boulders were installed, Mayor Brian Bigger ordered staff to remove enough of the boulders to reinstate access in time for anglers to get their gear on the ice for the season. 

During Tuesday’s city council meeting, Bigger introduced a successful motion for the remaining boulders to be removed by May 20 in order to fully clear up access for boats at the unofficial boat launch until such time as the city drafts a permanent solution, which could mean the installation of a new and official boat launch nearby.

“This is impacting many, many people across the community, and I don’t think it’s wise to go down this rabbit hole and setting precedence of putting boulders across access to various lakes throughout the community without a full understanding,” Bigger said. 

During a presentation to city council, Bigger pulled up several printed photographs of other unofficial boat launches that can be found throughout the municipality, which countless people use to access lakes.

It isn’t just area residents with a vested interest in the lake access point at Poupore Road West, Bigger pointed out, noting that a counter-petition with more than 900 names called for the immediate reinstatement of full lake access earlier this year in response to its closure.

Petition lead Allison Lacey told this week that city council’s decision to remove the boulders will “save a lot of upset people this summer.”

“It’s nice to see they’ve finally made a decision to remove them until further investigation,” she said. “My worry was that someone would get hurt this summer trying to move it themselves. People are determined. It’s not the right thing to do, but some people will take it upon themselves to think that they’re right.”

Although Foley said that she has seen Facebook posts by lake users who have been threatening to be extra loud and disruptive this summer in order to get back at are residents who are pushing for the boat launch’s closure, Lacey is advocating for calmer heads to prevail. 

“We have to show that we are taking this seriously and not trying to harm anyone or park on their property,” she said, adding that she hopes a better-behaved lake-user community will prove to area residents that the boat launch situation is a non-issue.

“They’re going to be watching us very closely,” Lacey said. 

During this week’s meeting, Ward 7 Coun. Mike Jakubo took umbrage with Bigger blindsiding him with a motion he could have disclosed prior.

Jakubo’s ward includes Skead, and he has been following this matter closely in consultation with area residents.

While Bigger’s motion calls for the boulders’ removal, the city administration report before city council that night recommended the boulders remain in place, and that the boulders that were removed to allow ice hut access be reinstated until next winter. These same boulders would be removed again for the winter months to ensure anglers again have winter access.

There are alternative boat launch options during the summer months, including the nearby Tony’s Marina, but there are no alternatives along this section of the lake during the winter.

The closest parking opportunity is almost a kilometre away from the unofficial boat launch, Jakubo said, reiterating residents’ concerns that the “No Parking” signs are routinely ignored. 

“We have one parking officer for the entire city on weekends,” he said, adding that any nice weekend during the summer has the potential to cause area residents an issue. 

“I am certainly in agreement with the mayor on one item, that being that I think staff have designed an excellent public consultation process.”

Although disappointed by city council as a whole, Foley said that Jakubo deserves area residents’ gratitude for sticking with it and advocating on their behalf.

“He has been nothing but helpful to us, he really has.”

Although the boulders have been slated for removal by May 20, she said she and other residents might pursue legal recourse.

The city “recognized there is a safety concern, that’s why the boulders were up,” she said. “Somebody somewhere agreed it was a safety concern, and now all of a sudden it’s not because the mayor says it’s not?”

What confounds Foley is that lake users have opted to advocate for continued lake access at an unofficial access point instead of pushing for the city to install an official boat launch in the area complete with washroom facilities and dock.

While she plans on weighing in on the public consultation process, so, too, will Lacey and others who support continued lake access.

“I just hope that everyone gets to have their voices heard, because there are a lot of people using it for different reasons,” Lacey said. “There are so many different factors involved in why people use that landing.”

Tuesday’s vote of city council members was 9-4 in favour of Bigger’s motion to remove the boulders.

The following city council members voted yes: Bigger, Ward 2 Coun. Michael Vagnini, Ward 4 Coun. Geoff McCausland, Ward 6 Coun. Rene Lapierre, Ward 10 Coun. Fern Cormier, Ward 3 Coun. Gerry Montpellier, Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan, Ward 8 Coun. Al Sizer and Ward 12 Coun. Joscelyne Landry-Altmann. 

The following city council members voted no: Jakubo, Ward 1 Coun. Mark Signoretti, Ward 9 Coun. Deb McIntosh and Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc.

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for