Why is it that success can sometimes lead to conflict and possible failure? That is certainly the case at Gardom Lake, where a strong sense of community spirit has resulted in decades of successful management of the 40-acre community park that includes a beach, two islands and a ballpark. Although hundreds of people enjoy the well-kept grounds and beach access, a disgruntled few who would prefer seeing half the beach area turned into a boat launch has likely pushed the provincial government to end its support for this community gem.
The history of the park dates back to the mid-1960s, when ownership of the property reverted to the Crown because of unpaid back taxes. Realizing the property’s recreational values, the government of the day in its wisdom created a Class C Park that was managed by a local park board. In the early 1990s, the BC Liberal government decided to cancel Class C parks, and when the CSRD did not want to manage it, government staff provided a license to the community.
For over two decades, the Gardom Lake Park Society has been doing a fabulous job of maintaining the park, as well as making significant infrastructure improvements. Using yearly grants from the CSRD that covers insurance fees, maintenance costs and some capital improvements, the society not only kept the grounds and structures clean and tidy, it has also added new walking trails, new stairs, picnic tables, benches, floats, a swimming platform, handicap washrooms, a diving platform, and a wharf. The budget was kept to a minimum, because volunteers did much of the work.
Although one might think that the Park Society’s vision of providing a safe and peaceful recreational setting with minimal environmental impacts would be a motherhood issue, there are others in the community who believe that improving their ability to launch boats should be the priority. This issue along with growing concern about increasing impacts to water quality resulted in a planning process for the entire watershed in 2014 that was funded by the CSRD and facilitated by the Fraser Basin Council.
Another key organization that has been working to protect all values in the sensitive watershed is the Gardom Lake Stewardship Society (formerly Friends of Gardom Lake). In addition to helping bring stakeholders together for the planning process, members of the group initiated a petition in the early 1990s that eventually resulted in the federal government banning gasoline motors on the lake. Key to the success of achieving the ‘electric motors only’ status for the 75-hectare lake was the support from the CSRD.
The planning process that began in December 2014 involved provincial ministries, First Nations, local organizations, farmers, fishing groups and the Gardom Lake Bible Camp. It achieved consensus on many objectives, including lake water quality monitoring, inventorying septic systems, developing a restoration plan, and educating local residents and visitors about the need to protect flora, fauna and the riparian ecosystems. The only issue where there was no agreement was trailered boat access.
Given the lack of support for adding a boat launch to the park, the group recommended improving the launch at Teal Road and making improvements to the hand launch at Musgrave Road. Subsequently, the provincial government and the CSRD made the recommended improvements, including signage, installing privacy fencing, road paving, and installing garbage/recycling bins and washrooms.
Despite these improvements, some residents continued to bring complaints to the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations. No reason was given for the Ministry’s decision to not renew the license for the park, but it is possible that the continued discord over the boat launch issue was the cause. If the CSRD takes over the management of the park, the cost to operate it will increase five-fold as volunteers would no longer be doing the majority of the work.
Community spirit flourishes in the Shuswap and Gardom Lake is one example where local residents volunteer extensively to improve their quality of life. Unfortunately, provincial government staff have failed to appreciate these efforts and would prefer that the regional district take over responsibility of this gem of a park. We can only hope that the values that so many residents have worked so hard to protect will continue to be preserved.
Here is a complete list of the improvements added to the park by the society:
- Built a 120-foot multi-use wharf
- Built and maintained 2 covered picnic gazebos
- Replaced four old existing picnic tables with concrete structures
- Replaced wooden beach side benches with concrete structures
- Replaced old picnic tables on Main Island with a log table
- Updated safety structures on the swing set
- Replaced and upgraded main stairway access to picnic area and Main Island
- Built a swimming platform adjacent to the beach area
- Built a floating diving platform off shore from the beach
- Built 24’ free standing bridge on the trail system
- Established a “kayak” wharf for canoe and kayak entry and launching
- Placed a concrete table at the ball park
- Removed dangerous bleacher structure and concession from Ball Park
- Built log dugouts for the ball diamond
- Refurbished existing outhouses on Main Island and placed an outhouse on Turtle Island.
- Replaced and upgraded all signage
- Established and maintained 2.4 kilometers of walking and access trails
- Expanded off road parking for winter access
Gardom Lake Community Involvement:
The Society hosts three community events each year
- Volunteer Cleanup Day – each year in May the community gets together for a day to “spring clean” the Park. This includes removing winter debris, clearing trails, cleaning tables and washrooms, repairing stairways and docks as well as small new projects. This day is also an opportunity for the Board to update members on changes or other initiatives.
- Annual General Meeting – this is a well-attended event, particularly when the community senses change in the form or character of the Park. There has been wide spread community support for the direction articulated by the Board.
- Annual Christmas Concert – while not directly related to the management and maintenance of the park it is an example of the involvement by and for the community that the Society offers. Upwards of ninety or more people attend and use the opportunity to celebrate the season and our local community.
Other Community initiatives
- Yellow Flag Iris removal – the Society has participated in this initiative, focusing on the mainland and island shorelines. The Shuswap Invasive Species Council has been delighted at the efficacy of this treatment.
- Gardom Lake Management Plan – the Society is a participant in the Gardom Lake Management Plan. Many of the goals of the plan relate to management of the park. In particular, the preservation and enhancement of the riparian, upland and ecological integrity of the watershed.
- Lake Clean Up – A joint project with the Canadian Legion, Gardom Lake Stewardship and the Park Society is anticipated for 2017. Gardom Lake has a number of abandoned structures and debris. It is the intent of this initiative to remove as many as possible in a community work bee.
List of objectives from the Gardom Lake Management Plan;
Objective 1A: Determine the current water quality of Gardom Lake
Objective 1B: Develop and implement a water quality monitoring plan for Gardom Lake
Objective 2A: Determine the water quantity trends in Gardom Lake
Objective 3A: Provide educational opportunities to Gardom Lake residents regarding water quality and beneficial practices
Objective 4A: Assess the riparian zone across the whole lakefront
Objective 4B: Educate Gardom Lake area residents, property owners/managers, and visitors/users about the importance, function, and health of riparian ecosystems
Objective 4C: Educate Gardom Lake area residents and visitors about local flora and fauna and beneficial practices in and around the lake
Objective 5A: Educate upland owners about the relationship between upland areas and lake health, water quality, and related beneficial practices
Objective 6A: Inventory septic systems around Gardom Lake
Objective 6B: Educate Gardom Lake residents about beneficial management practices for septic systems near water
Objective 6C: Implement a behaviour change campaign
Objective 7A: Determine the amount and type of lake use
Objective 8A: Develop a restoration plan