For many, boating is a big part of living in the Okanagan but access to the lake for one group of boaters has suddenly become difficult. Unless a sailboat is kept in the water year-round, getting it in and out of the water in Kelowna will be costly.
“This is a big inconvenience and this costs a lot of money,” sailboat owner Alan Wright said.
On Saturday, a big crane was being used to hoist sailboats out of their trailers and into Okanagan Lake at the Water street boat launch. About a dozen sailboat owners hired the crane at a cost of $125 each.
The reason the crane had to be brought in is because the City decommissioned the only deep water boat launch in Kelowna at the end of February. The boat launch on Water Street is too shallow for deep keel boats.
The deep water boat launch was situated in Kerry Park along the downtown waterfront but re-development plans at the park forced the closure of it for good. The re-development plans include the completion of the waterfront promenade and making the area more pedestrian friendly.
“We really want to turn it over to the hundreds of people that are walking past each day,” Parks and Buildings Planning Manager with the City of Kelowna Robert Parlane said.
Parlane says the decision to close the boat launch was made after careful consideration that included monitoring the usage during six peak boating months in 2016.
“We set up a video camera just to measure how many launches there were in that time,” Parlane said. “We measured 30 total launches so it is obviously a very small user group.”
The boat owners say they are disappointed but add that the City could upgrade the Water Street boat launch to accommodate them as well.
“We are hopeful the City will repair the boat launch here to so it can take keel boats as it used to years ago,” sailboat owner Dick Douggan said.
Parlane says the City has looked into the cost associated with upgrading the Water Street boat launch but with it pegged at around $360,000, there are no plans to move forward with the project.
For now, sailboat owners with deep keel boats will either have to hire a crane or use deep water boat launches at private marinas in neighboring municipalities.