It’s a compromise that will work, said councillor Scott Nelson after city council passed a motion Tuesday to widen the road for parking near the Dutch Point Road boat access and remove no-parking signs along the railway tracks nearby.
“This is in recognition of making sure safety is a priority,” Nelson told council before the vote. “We presently use 12 feet for the access where we actually own 66 feet of right of way width so we’ve got some opportunity to do some expansion.”
By clearing and grading a gentle slope that’s overgrown during the last decade and removing signs along a 300 foot stretch, there will be room for five or six cars with boat trailers to park, he added.
For Greg Van Soest, who fought to keep the no parking signs out in the first place and gathered more than 500 signatures opposing the move, the decision was good news.
“I couldn’t believe they could do that,” Van Soest said. “It’s a public road that’s been returned to the people of Williams Lake.”
Coun. Jason Ryll agreed safety is the number one issue and said in an ideal world the road would be two lanes, to allow for emergency vehicles and residents’ access.
“But there’s only so much land that’s available there and we are looking at it from a point of view of providing the public with access to the lake,” Ryll said, adding it’s one of two accesses to the entire lake.
Van Soest, who continued to park and use the Dutch Point boat access despite the no parking signs, said he’s also excited about the possibility of renewed public access to the old South Lakeside Beach, located half a kilometre past the launch toward town.
“I took swimming lessons there when I was a kid,” he added. “It would need a bit of cleaning up but it’s a beautiful spot.”
Council has asked CN for a meeting to discuss re-opening access to the beach.
“It’s a publicly owned asset in an area with really no access to it,” Nelson said of the beach.
Councillors Ryll, Craig Smith and Mayor Walt Cobb joined Nelson voting in favour of the motion, while Councillors Ivan Bonnell, Laurie Walters and Sue Zacharias were opposed.
“This hasn’t gone through committee or staff for formal input, or cost estimate,” Bonnell argued. “I would be supportive once we get that information before finalizing any direction on it.”
Nelson estimated the cost would be less than a few thousand dollars to grade the road.
“This has been before council for over a year, there have been five reports, I don’t want to see it deferred because this is the key time that people are going to use the access,” he said.