NEAR MERRITT – A small lake adjacent to the Okanagan Connector is known for producing giant-sized Rainbow trout.
But for many years, public access to Corbett Lake has been blocked off by the owners of the lake’s fishing lodge.
The Nicola Valley Fish & Game Club believes the lake should be accessible to everyone.
“He fenced off the public access and put up no trespassing signs and everybody thought that was a legal thing to do but in fact it wasn’t,” says club spokesperson Rick McGowan. “It’s a public road and you can’t close a public road without going through the highways road closure process, which has never happened.”
McGowan says they’ve got the legal documents to prove their point.
To push the issue, club members ice-fished the lake twice in the past year.
Some were charged with criminal mischief and ordered by the courts to stay 400 metres away from the water.
“We don’t look at it as civil disobedience,” says McGowan. “The crimes being committed are on the other side for the illegal blocking of public roads.”
The club claims the Douglas Lake Ranch is also wrongly blocking public access to two prime fishing lakes south of Kamloops.
McGowan says they look forward to arguing the issue in court.
“It’s private entrepreneurs wanting to lock the public out to take control of those lakes. That’s what’s going on.”
One of the owners of Corbett Lake Lodge turned down an interview request by Global Okanagan News, referring us their recent advertisement in the Merritt Herald newspaper.
It says the provincial government has determined the land around the lake is private property and the owners have the legal right to close off public access.
McGowan says people from all over the province have donated more than $100,000 to help fund the club’s legal fight, adding he’s willing to go to jail over the issue.
“We want to fight this fight to protect public spaces for all future generations.”