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Council hears concerns on beach walkability

A local resident is on a mission to make the beachfront more accessible to everyone.
One of the access points resident Patrick Hort pointed out to city council. Hort is hoping the city will make the beach more accessible to all residents, not just those with
One of the access points resident Patrick Hort pointed out to city council. Hort is hoping the city will make the beach more accessible to all residents, not just those with properties along it.

A local resident is on a mission to make the beachfront more accessible to everyone.

Long-time Cold Lake resident Patrick Hort was in front of city council last week requesting a more walk-friendly beach by creating access points and removing obstructions.

“The developer, as part of the development agreement, was supposed to build a trail network by the water and it was a condition of the development...The developer never did that. What I've done is I've come to council just asking to build an access to the lake,” said Hort.

During his delegation, Hort explained to council that while there are designated spots for access points to the beach within Horseshoe Bay Estates and along Beach Ave., they are yet to be developed as such.

“I just want to get public access to the beach. It doesn't have to be an elaborate five star trail network, it could be a trail just like we see right now at Cold Lake Provincial Park.”

In addition to not having the beach easily accessible from the roadway, the other concern Hort raised was the obstacles people face when travelling along the beach front.

Over the years, property owners have extended items like fences and shed beyond their property line and onto the beach area, which is public land. According to Hort, some of these structures have gone so far onto the beach that they are deterring or preventing the public from freely moving along the beach.

“We have 16,000 people in the community and it's a handful of people in the community that feel it's their private beach, that it's their property. That's what got me. These fences, these obstacles, these retaining walls, I found out that in fact many of these structures were all built on public land to prevent people like myself from walking on the beach.”

Following retirement Hort started his mission to gain better access to the beach, sifting through numerous bylaws and regulations that could be applied. Since the city's open house earlier this year, he has been in discussion with officials on the issue, and approached provincial enforcement agencies locally and in Edmonton.

His next step would be to talk to federal representatives regarding the fisheries act, though he hopes it doesn't get to that point.

“Many people I've talked to, a lot of my friends, enjoy the beach and enjoy walking just like myself. I just assume that if there's a fence that's the homeowner and I'm not allowed there,” said Hort.

He added, “As I did my research, (in some cases) I found that they don't own close to that, there's 50 to 100-feet of public property from where their barrier is to where their land starts.”

Coun. Chris Vining was sympathetic to the issue. Not only does it draw attention to the lack of accessibility to public beach, but brings forward an over arching connectivity issue within the city – a focus of Vining's during the last election.

“I think Mr. Hort's presentation really stuck the point. It's not just beach access. We have public utility right-aways all through the city that are designated on our master plan as being trail linkages and they're not,” explained Vining, adding that nothing's improved on the front since the creation of the Millennium trail almost two decades ago.

“There's things that need to be done. We've hit a lot of the big picture pieces, now we need to get into some fine tuning pieces.”

Currently, city council has their focus on building up the area from Kinosoo Beach to the Cold Lake Marina. While agreeing it would be nice to have a trail along the entire beach, Mayor Craig Copeland noted that there are a lot of other areas within the city that they've had requests for as well.

“I think we just have to be careful of throwing a lot of balls in the air that may never get tackled until 20 years from now...There's a lot of places in Cold Lake, in my opinion, that we have to look at trails. We have to look at Brady Heights, English Bay Road.”

Copeland added that they will look at funding trails, and Hort's request, during next year's budget deliberations.