It is most disappointing and disheartening to read the latest collection of letters pitting neighbor against neighbor in the battle over proper use of a public beach.
I am continually frustrated to see efforts from all sides of this debate engaging in hyperbole and obfuscation in an attempt to create a beach area more suited for only a certain specific use. Instead, the Cadboro Bay community should be working together, communicating clearly and honestly, and forming a concise request of action from Saanich that will improve the beach for all users and not a select group of dog owners or homeowners.
It is very clear that there are a multitude of issues impacting the ability for citizens of all sorts from being able to properly enjoy this beach. However, these diverse problems are not produced by a single guilty group. Rather than pointing fingers, laying blame, and seeking to ban or remove access, our citizens should be demanding Saanich stop being derelict in its responsibilities and actually enforce the rules and regulations which already exist. The overwhelming majority of issues noted are already in clear contravention to existing bylaws, and proper education and enforcement of these bylaws would have enormous positive effect. It is possible for everyone to enjoy the beach area, but only if mutual respect and conformity with regulations is shown.
Oak Bay PD recently posted on their social media account photos of Oak Bay PD officers patrolling Gonzales Beach during a busy sunny afternoon. Is it too much to ask our own municipal government devote a few resources to our own popular beach? As summer weather approaches, public use of the beach increases and so does the potential for conflict between users. Asking for an increase in patrol and enforcement in this incredibly valuable public area is not an unreasonable request. Demanding a proper bylaw or police officer response to legitimate complaints should not be unrealistic. One homeowner has been able to supply clear evidence of finable offenses, but been brushed off by bylaw officers; this is simply unacceptable and a complete failure of our system. Legitimate issues require a legitimate response, and Saanich’s failure to appropriately respond to repeated public complaint has resulted in this current atmosphere of divisive tension.
Currently, it is very clear that some individuals do not respect or are not aware of proper beach etiquette and bylaw requirements. But changing these bylaws will have little effect if the current bylaws are already being ignored. Creating new rules without proper education and enforcement will only result in greater conflict when the new rules are once again shrugged off.
On a sunnier note, I applaud the recent creation of the Cadboro Bay Local and Cadboro Beachkeepers Facebook groups – this collaborative and cooperative effort is exactly what the community and beach require. In these groups, I witness individuals on both sides of the beach debate working together to improve conditions for all. It is my hope that these positive efforts can be further encouraged and expanded such that our community develops a strong unified voice that will be heard by our Saanich government .