Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club heading back to court

By on April 16, 2018
Local fisherman and Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club member Rick McGowan sits on a berm overlooking Corbett Lake. (Michael Potestio/Merritt Herald).

 

by Michael Potestio
Kamloops This Week

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club is heading back to court in an effort to stop a suspected land swap that would block public access to a sport fishing lake east of Merritt.

The club is suing Corbett Lake Lodge, Douglas Lake Cattle Company and the province of British Columbia for allegedly blocking public access to Corbett Lake.

The club alleges public access exists via the highway right-of-way of the Okanagan Connector that extends into a portion of the lake.

According to court documents, the club claims that since 2005, the lodge, ranch and Crown have conspired to block the public access to the lake through various actions.

These actions include constructing a large berm on the highway right-of-way, erecting an eight-foot fence, posting no-parking signs along the side of the highway, causing RCMP to apprehend people fishing on the lake and attempting to convert a portion of Crown land on the highway right-of-way to private land by gifting it to Douglas Lake Ranch.

Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club lawyer Chris Harvey told KTW the land swap is only suspected to be happening at this point and he believes litigation should stop such an occurrence.

“There may not be a land swap,” he said.

The club is seeking a declaration that the public right-of-way exists and that the lake and fishery are public, as well. The club is also seeking an injunction to restrain the lodge, ranch and Crown from interfering with the public’s right to access the lake.

The notice of civil claim has been filed in court and responses from the defendants are pending, Harvey said.

The club’s lawsuit comes as it awaits a decision regarding another suit against Douglas Lake Ranch concerning public access to fish two other lakes in the area. The club alleges the ranch is illegally blocking access to Minnie and Stoney lakes via a locked gate across Stoney Lake Road.

That trial concluded in the spring of 2017 with a tour of the lakes in question. A judgment is pending.

“There are some difficult issues of law raised for the court to decide, so it’s not surprising that it’s taking some time,” Harvey said.

He said the reason for bringing the Corbett Lake issue to trial before a decision on Minnie and Stoney lakes is made is due to ongoing conflict between members of the club and the lodge.

Corbett Lake has been the site of multiple ice-fishing protests, with police on two occasions charging people who accessed the lake in protest in 2015 — first with trespassing in January and then with mischief in December.

The charges were dropped both times.

In February 2017, members associated with the fish and game club once again took to the lake to ice fish in protest and were not met by opposition.

Corbett Lake is said to be surrounded by private property, owned by three different groups — Douglas Lake Cattle Company, Nicola Ranch and Corbett Lake Lodge, which stocks the lake with trout raised off-site for its fishing resort.

Merritt RCMP Sgt. Norm Flemming told the Herald last year that the Ministry of Transportation had informed him — based on its review of government records — that Corbett Lake is entirely land-locked by private property and that Crown-owned land comprising the highway does not touch the natural boundary of the Crown-owned portion of the lake bed as outlined in the original Crown grant for the district lot.

One Comment

  1. IMG

    April 18, 2018 at 6:17 pm

    Ridiculous! The lake was public in 1978 when I was learning to fly fish. Fished the “public” lake for years! The public access ramp to the lake is still there! The only issue is that the new highway alignment puts the existing access ramp behind a fence. What gives? How can a public lake be transferred to a private entity? Some shady backroom deal somewhere!?

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