“Heritage” Island proposed land exchange

The Ministry of Natural Resource Operations (MNRO, formerly Integrated Land Management Bureau (ILMB)) has received an application - originally in June 2008 - for an exchange of the 63 ac “Heritage” Island with a 44.4 ac piece of Crown Land on the southern lake shore, east of the Bridge Lake Ice Caves and to the west of the Greenall Road subdivision. The details of this application were outlined by the proponent in a letter to the Friends of Bridge Lake that you can read here.

The pros and cons of the proposal have been hotly discussed amongst Bridge Lake residents, both permanent and seasonal. The following information is presented as impartially as possible. These are the major issues that we have identified:

Crown Reserve (UREP)

On August 14, 1945, the BC Government by Order-in-Council designated 141.5 acres of Crown Land on Bridge Lake as Reserve for the “Recreation and Enjoyment of the Public” (UREP). Part of this land is now being considered for the land exchange. Although there was initially some confusion over whether this Reserve was still in place, a letter dated January 13, 2009, from the IMLB states: “There was no information found indicating that the reserve was amended. The preceding indicates that the reserve was not cancelled, was unlikely to have expired, and is still in place”.

In order for the rezoning to go forward, the UREP status has to be removed for the 18 ha under discussion. However, MNRO considers an application to the Province to include the rest of the Crown land between Highway 24 and the lake into this UREP area.

Environmental sensitivity

Both “Heritage” Island and the Crown Land proposed for the land exchange are relatively undisturbed. They both provide a significant amount of habitat for wildlife and form part of a wildlife corridor across the west end of the lake. While no formal environmental assessment of either the island or the Crown Land has been conducted to date, both properties are expected to be rich in a wide variety of plant and animal species. It is expected that development of either property would displace many of these wildlife species. Clearing of the properties to make way for roads/paths and buildings would significantly change the ecology of the land.

It is clear that residential development of the island would have the largest direct impact on the lake. However, currently there is no rezoning application for the island before the CRD. The Crown Land would accommodate 10 waterfront and 8 upland properties. A public access would provide lake access for the upland property owners and would likely attract other lake users, thereby increasing traffic in the bay and the rest of the lake.

The cumulative impact on the lake and surrounding area would be comparable. However the Crown Land properties, with their easy access to the highway, are more likely to be year-round residences, whereas the island is expected to be limited to seasonal use only.

Archaeological sites

There are several documented archaeological sites on the island. With development of the island, these sites would undoubtedly be damaged or be destroyed. It appears that there are no documented archaeological sites on the Crown Land being proposed for the land exchange, although due to its proximity to the Ice Caves, it is possible that a survey may uncover new sites. An archaeological assessment will be required by MNRO before approval of the land exchange.

Land exchange

Of great concern is the fact that this land exchange, should it go through, will create a precedent, not just for this area, but for the entire Province. Once a land exchange has been granted, the precedent has been set, opening the door for similar applications to the Province.

Another concern is that the MNRO appraisal procedure is far from transparent. We tried to get some information under the “Freedom of Information Act”, but were told that the information could not be made public before the conclusion of the application process – if ever! Now we have to wait if the developer makes good on his promise to make the data available to the public.

Rezoning application

To-date, the CRD has not yet received an application to rezone the 18 ha Crown Land lot from “Resource Area (RA)” to “Lakefront Residential (RL)”. Once it is filed with the CRD Planning department, we will provide you with a copy of this application here.

Should the CRD Board of Directors approve the rezoning in the 1st and 2nd reading, there will be a Public Hearing before the 3rd hearing, whereby interested residents could voice their views and possibly influence the CRD’s approval decisions.