A sign restricting access to Meridian Beach’s inland marina in Ponoka County has some upset about the intent.
On its Facebook page the Meridian Beach Homeowners Association (MBHA) recently posted a photo of a sign restricting access to the inland marina. It states that access to the canal banks and boat docks are prohibited and no fishing on the bridge is allowed.
There is a canal that leads the water into the inland marina where homeowners’ docks are built. Along there, boats access the lake through the canal. What has happened is the marina has become a hot spot for fishermen who use the banks to go fishing.
That use and how they access the water has become an issue for residents, who feel they own the land up to the water. The docks are seen as private.
Developer Norval Horner explained that the fishing is ideal but offered that, “People have to trespass to get to the marina.”
The trouble for residents, says Horner, is there are quite a few boats that use the canal and marina, plus fishermen will use the docks. What’s happening is people are throwing garbage along the banks and gutting their fish in the open. “It started to affect the desirability of the development.”
He said the MBHA made the decision to restrict access to the banks of the marina, which is why the sign was put up. On its Facebook page the association stated that RCMP will be patrolling and providing tickets. That post and statement caused some uproar on social media with some suggesting the association has no authority to do so.
Of all the communities around the lake, Horner suggested Meridian Beach is one of the most accessible to the public. “Both our beaches are open to the public and both our playgrounds,” explained Horner, adding that Raymond Shores is actually a gated community.
That question of ownership of the banks is what caused such a controversy on Meridian Beach’s Facebook page.
“We do want people to fish on our shoreline and fish in the lake but not in our private marina,” Horner stated.
He maintains that from legal advice, the marina and docks belong to Meridian Beach homeowners.
Lake users unhappy
For county resident Mike Black, fishing along the marina has been a joy and it’s something he does with his father in the fall. He took issue with the abrupt posting of the sign with no notice.
Had the MBHA consulted with those who fish in the marina to come up with a solution, Black suggests there would have been an amicable arrangement. He also challenges residents’ interpretation of the law.
According to The Law and the Lake: Navigating Alberta’s Regulatory Framework, a document prepared for the Alberta Lake Management Society, it is a question of Crown land on the banks. The Public Lands Act deals with ownership of the beds and shores of permanent water bodies and prohibits certain activities, states the document.
A person can walk along the high water mark or bank without trespassing on adjacent land. The document points out several myths regarding private access to a lake. One of those myths assumes that a homeowner can keep a person off their lakeshore and dock.
“The beds and shores of most lakes are Crown-owned and therefore public land for everyone to use. You cannot prevent the public from using the shore or a municipal reserve in front of your cottage,” explains the document.
Add to that if a dock isn’t registered and is a temporary structure — which is allowed — it is technically on Crown property.
Black recalled a time when he was fishing with his wife on the banks of a different beach when a landowner brought their German shepherd barking right in his face. Eventually it came to police stepping in where they subsequently told the landowner to remove the dog as he wasn’t trespassing.
“By law they don’t have any legal grounds,” said Black.
Question of the private marina
County CAO Charlie Cutforth suggested the homeowners may have a point, adding that a public boat launch was developed just north of the development. “We did require, as part of the approval, access to public beaches, playgrounds and washrooms,” said Cutforth.
With people using the docks to fish, which he says are considered private, it’s become an issue for residents.
“It’s gotten to the point where people are walking on people’s property and leaving garbage,” said Cutforth.
The argument he sees on this issue is if the banks are public land. The lake is, said Cutforth, but he suggests residents have a viable argument regarding the inland marina.
Alberta Environment and Parks did respond to requests for information on Meridian Beach after the May 17 edition was printed. Ponoka News is working on a followup for next week.