Fishermen protest barring of public property
A local lake was the site of a protest on the weekend as fishermen gathered to draw attention to what they feel is the unlawful barring of access to public property.
On Sunday, March 6, 19 people enjoyed a day of fishing at Minnie Lake, not in itself controversial, except that the lake in question has become a centrepiece of turmoil between local outdoor enthusiasts and the ranchers whose property surrounds the lake.
Minnie Lake is a public lake that is situated on Douglas Lake Ranch. According to section 80 of the Wildlife Act, a person committs an offence if that person interferes or obstructs a person licensed to hunt or fish while that person is lawfully so engaged.
“The idea is that not just Douglas Lake [personal], but ranchers are generally taking advantage of a situation where the government is sitting on their hands and the ranchers are barring access to public lakes,” says Ed Hendricks, owner of Ponderosa Sports and a participant in the protest.
Hendricks said the fishermen were confronted by an employee of Douglas Lake Ranch who allegedly swore at them and informed them that the police and conservation officers were on their way.
All of the fishermen stayed on the lake and a conservation officer did arrive, but could see no infractions and simply wished the men a good day of fishing.
“We are investigating the status of the land, and that is all I know at this point,” says Conservation Officer Jeff Hanratty.
“Where it falls to us, like the RCMP, we have an authority to enforce the Trespass Act.”
“There are two potential violations which appear to be totally contradictory, and we have to conduct an investigation to see if we can determine the status of the land and whether there is a public access there.”
Hanratty says that his office will take up the issue and try to determine exactly what is going on with the titles to the land in an effort to finally bring clarity and resolution to this dispute.
“We all stayed and enjoyed a day of fishing in a public place and even had a fishing derby among the group,” says Hendricks.
The Merritt Herald contacted Douglas Ranch, but representatives declined to make any comments at this time.