A decision on the closure of Range Road 21 to boat launch activity has been deferred by Red Deer County.
Residents of the Summer Village of Half Moon Bay and elected officials crowded into Red Deer County council chambers on Tuesday to voice their stances on the issue.
The road, which leads directly into Sylvan Lake, has been used as an informal boat launch for many years.
Its lack of facilities, however, as well as frequent reports of its misuse and abuse, prompted Red Deer County council in January to give first reading to a bylaw which proposes the closure of the road where it meets the lake.
“We are stewards of the lake, it’s our job to look after it,” said Sylvan Lake Mayor Susan Samson, speaking in opposition to the proposed bylaw.
“The road being open provides an access point for not just the people that live in the area, but for travellers to the area.”
Samson pointed out that in 2003 a lake access study was carried out and endorsed by municipalities surrounding Sylvan Lake. Range Road 21, she said, was identified by the study as a lake access point that should remain open until further lake access options become available.
“When you close (Range Road 21), the problems that you have there just get pushed onto other sites.”
Lacombe County Reeve Ken Wigmore echoed Samson’s comments, and said: “The closure of this access point to vehicular traffic will undoubtedly compound the ongoing issue of limited public access to Sylvan Lake.
“We would ask that you consider other actions to address the misuse and abuse issues rather than the outright closure of the road to vehicular traffic.”
Ted Hiscock, Mayor of the Summer Village of Half Moon Bay, described appalling conditions found at the site after it’s been used by boaters and voiced his support for its closure.
“The bylaw is not related to the closure of Range Road 21 and access to the lake,” he said. “It’s restricting the access for large vessels, party boats, and groups of people that generally go to the lake to have a good time and leave their garbage behind.”
Hiscock added that the width of the road does not allow adequate turning space for vehicles hauling a boat.
Jon Johnston, a longtime resident of Half Moon Bay, was one of several Half Moon Bay residents who spoke in favour of the bylaw.
“The key point is that Range Road 21 isn’t a boat launch,” he said. “Having a road that ends in the lake doesn’t make it a boat launch.”
Another resident who lives near the site expressed his concern with the dangers the area presents, due to the high volume of vehicles and boats that occupy it in the summer.
One Sylvan Lake resident and landowner offered to enter into discussions with Red Deer County regarding the sale of land near the contentious site. On the land, he said, parking, washrooms and picnic areas could be built.
Red Deer County councillors, at the end of the public hearing, moved to defer a decision on the fate of the bylaw pending further discussions.