WATCH ABOVE: Some living on Wabamun Lake say the Village of Seba Beach is trying to drive people out of the community with the closure of the boat launch. Fletcher Kent reports.
EDMONTON — A battle is brewing at Wabamun Lake west of Edmonton over the decision to close a community boat launch.
Seba Beach Village Council decided to shut down its boat launch earlier this year, forcing visitors and some residents to use the boat launch at Wabamun, on the other side of the lake.
The Village says it was forced to close the boat launch over safety concerns; however, some in the community don’t buy it.
“It doesn’t make any sense to me whatsoever,” said Seba Beach resident Andrea Derbyshire. “It’s a de-stressor to be able to come to the lake and our village council is locking them out.”
Derbyshire also owns Derby’s Lakeview General Store. She says she’s heard several complaints from visitors and worries the boat closure will hurt the community.
“I felt angry. I felt very angry. My compassion for people is huge and when I see people in tears coming into the store wondering why the boat launch is closed and what are they going to do and where are they going to go, it breaks my heart.”
Other community members feel the closure of the boat launch creates a divide between those who have lake-front properties and those who don’t.
“If you don’t have a place to put your boat in and a boat hoist you’re sort of screwed,” said Gary Heather. “I just don’t think it’s fair for guys here to have to go all the way to Wabamun, they’re taxpayers.”
Seba Beach Mayor Doug Thomas says the closure was a long time coming, citing several safety concerns with the boat launch.
“That came as a result of some concerns that people had from a safety perspective, from a perspective of the fact that boats were getting stuck and that environmentally it wasn’t going to be good for the water to continue having these boats getting stuck,” said Thomas.
“It also created holes in the bottom of the lake where swimmers were potentially in danger of going into one of these holes.”
Thomas says boats bringing in zebra mussels and boat-borne bacteria was also a concern.
“We have significant support from the residents of the Summer Village of Seba Beach in the decision that was made to close the access,” Thomas added.
Derbyshire disagrees; she’s started a petition in hopes of getting the province to step in. So far, she has about 120 signatures and hopes it will be enough to bring attention to the issue.
“I think there’s a better solution than shutting down a public area,” she said Friday. “I strongly feel that the village council members are sending a clear message to people that they’re not welcome here … to keep it all to their own little self.”
In 2013, a boat launch review studied several locations on Wabamun Lake. The review found most were not feasible launch sites because the water was too shallow or they had inadequate parking. However, the study also said, if properly managed, the secondary launches should be allowed to continue.
With files from Fletcher Kent, Global News.