Concerns are being raised about the loss of public access to popular swimming holes in the Valley, like ‘Paradise’, pictured here. (Submitted photo)

Loss of public access to popular Cowichan River swimming hole raises concerns

Site known as Paradise may be paradise lost

Andrew Wood has been spending much of his time during the summer months at a beautiful swimming hole off Cliffs and Gibbins roads, popularly known as “Paradise”, since he was 12 years old.

It’s been a much-visited swimming destination for people in the Cowichan Valley for generations, but access to the site involves walking a trail that goes through private property as well as land belonging to the Cowichan Tribes, and the trail is no longer open to the public.

The property owner at the head of the trail has been clearing trees at the site in preparation for building a fence to keep trespassers out, and Wood is concerned that access to his and many others’ favourite swimming hole is now being cut off.

“I’m sure the owners are within their legal rights,” Wood said.

“It’s always had a ‘do not enter’ sign at the entrance, but almost everyone I know has swam there since they were teenagers. A lot of people are talking about losing the public spaces that are the best part of living here.”

Wood said he hopes the landowners will be willing to donate a sliver of their property to the Municipality of North Cowichan, in which the property sits, to allow a path through the site, but he said there’s also the land owned by the Cowichan Tribes that must be crossed to get to the swimming hole to consider as well.

“This is very frustrating for a lot of people,” he said.

A statement from North Cowichan said it is the municipality’s understanding that the owners of the private property on Gibbins Road where this trespass occurs are not OK with the public walking through their property.

In response, they are clearing some trees in order to fence the perimeter of their property.

“The municipality is aware of the work underway and is in communication with the owners,” the statement said.

“The municipality has received many inquiries on this subject as well. Because the trails and access in question are through private and Cowichan Tribes land, North Cowichan does not have jurisdiction to facilitate public access.”

North Cowichan Mayor Jon Lefebure said the owners of the property have indicated that it’s not just trespass issues that are concerning them.

“It appears that some people that have been trespassing on the property are not just heading to the swimming area, but are leaving drug paraphernalia like needles around the property as well,” he said.

“I’m not a lawyer, but I believe liability issues have to be considered as well.”

But Cowichan Tribes Chief William Seymour said he has not heard any complaints from people crossing the First Nation’s land on their way to the swimming hole.

“We’re fine with it as long as people don’t start living there,” he said.

“I’m pretty sure people will still find a way to get there, regardless of what happens to that path.”

But the loss of public access to areas like Paradise have become an increasing problem in the Valley over the years.

A popular small beach on Greendale Road, known as Little Beach, has been a swimming hole for decades, but in recent years, Lake Cowichan’s tubing companies use it for picking up their customers who have finished their float trip through the community.

However, the beach is not publicly owned and there have been discussions in Lake Cowichan about the possibility of buying the beach to place it in the public’s hands and ensure accessibility.

RELATED STORY: LAKE COWICHAN NEEDS MORE PUBLIC ACCESS TO RIVER

Lake Cowichan Mayor Ross Forrest said there have been few issues with the public using the beach to date.

“I’m not sure what agreements the tubing companies have with the private property owner, but they appear to be working,” he said.

“That can change at any time however, although we hope it won’t. Pretty much all the property along the Cowichan River in our area is privately owned, so we try our best to educate people who use the river to follow the rules.”

Lefebure said there are plenty of public parks and other places to ensure that people still have access to popular destinations in North Cowichan.

“But is it enough?” he asked. “I’m not sure.”



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Piggies fall short but learn a lot from loss

Undermanned squad struggles against United

Former Cap named collegiate all-star

Luke Santerno played two years in Cowichan

Gammie siblings help Duncan Lanes to triple silver at YBC tenpin provincials

Siblings Alex and Alyssa Gammie both came from behind to finish second… Continue reading

T.W. Paterson column: Even historians have forgotten the Fenian scare of the 1860s: conclusion

Fenian eyes were again upon Canada — this time on far-off Vancouver Island.

Caps edged in overtime

Cowichan in a must-win situation going into game six at the Big Stick on Sunday

Stolen Bentley spotted going wrong way down highway found in Summerland

The car has been recorded going the wrong way on the Coquihalla, found two days later

Coming up in Cowichan: World Water Day

Shawnigan Lake marks World Water Day Got clean local water? “The ability… Continue reading

Late-season wave of the flu makes its round in B.C.

BC Centre for Disease Control reported 50 per cent jump in flu cases in first weeks of March

Tofino’s housing crisis causing some to seek shelter at the local hospital

Tofino’s housing crisis is pushing the town’s ‘hidden homeless’ population into the forefront.

Sentencing judge in Broncos crash calls for carnage on highways to end

Judge Inez Cardinal sentenced Jaskirat Singh Sidhu to eight years

2 fires in Victoria caused by cigarettes prompts warning from deputy fire chief

Two separate fires caused by cigarette butts were avoidable

Wildlife activists slam B.C. business, clubs for ‘wolf-whacking’ contests

Chilcotin Guns, Creston Valley Rod and Gun Club and West Kootenay Outdoorsmen Club under fire

‘Families torn apart:’ Truck driver in fatal Broncos crash gets 8-year sentence

Judge Inez Cardinal told court in Melfort, Sask., that Sidhu’s remorse and guilty plea were mitigating factors

Vancouver Island motorists attempted CPR on victim in fatal Highway 4 crash

Collision took place west of Whiskey Creek; man in his 70s died

Most Read