Council downplays safety concerns, orders popular Beach to remain open

A popular community beach will remain open this summer despite concerns a retaining wall damaged by flooding last year could collapse.

Delivered a recommendation Cottonwood Beach be shut for good through the summer season, Osoyoos Council Monday instead approved a partial closure of the beach area and the temporary shoring with sand of the retaining wall that lines its length below Cottonwood Drive.

“All of the statistics are pointing towards a drought this year,” said Coun. CJ Rhodes as he explained his opposition to the beach’s closing. “Even on the wettest of years — and even last year after the lake began to recede — there would be no possibility of the lake reaching that far up. I’ve never seen it.

“It could be part of our maintenance over the summer, but I don’t think it’s an imminent threat.”

Cracks in the sidewalk above the retaining wall show how much it has moved.

Council heard the existing Allan block retaining walls, running adjacent to the lake’s edge, last spring encountered erosion of the silts and sands behind them as they were drawn out by the impact of the waves from the lake.

“As a result, the four wall sections are now . . .leaning outward,” Jim Dinwoodie, the Town’s Director of Operational Services, told Council. “Concrete and asphalt walkways have sunken and surrounding landscape areas have been compromised.

“Any future weather or wave events could cause the wall to fall over onto the beach area.”

He explained work to replace the wall could not begin until the fall because the Town has not yet received from the province a necessary permit to undertake the work.

“Rising lake levels have now made it necessary to postpone this project until Osoyoos Lake levels drop in the autumn of 2019,” he added.

Council balked at a staff recommendation that suggested closing the beach until the work was completed, likely at the end of October. — a measure the Town would have enforced with barricades and fencing.

“The appearance is that it’s not a very popular beach,” said Coun. Rhodes.  “But during our tourist season it’s really popular.”

CAO Barry Romanko said there was another reason to undertake the work in the fall.

“You’re going to have equipment working on the street,” he said. “In a busy time of the year there, it would not be a very positive experience for the Sage Pub and other users.”

The Town will have another beach open at the end of Cottonwood Drive — with operational washrooms — this spring to provide public access to Osoyoos Lake.

Cottonwood Park (including the washrooms) will also remain open.

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