We need to bring in Freedom to Roam legislation

Swimmers, tubers, anglers, and paddlers all need access points to our rivers.

We need to bring in Freedom to Roam legislation

Robert Barron’s article about the loss of access to a swimming hole on the Cowichan River begs further comment.

As a recreational whitewater paddler, I’m aware of the grave concern recreationalists face all over the globe when riverfront becomes private property, and reasonable access is denied. Swimmers, tubers, anglers, and paddlers all need access points to our rivers.

Many countries have entrenched the “Freedom to Roam” as a legal right for citizens to access wilderness through private property. Here’s a quote from Wikipedia:

“The freedom to roam, or ‘everyman’s right’, is the general public’s right to access certain public or privately owned land for recreation and exercise. The right is sometimes called the right of public access to the wilderness or the ‘right to roam’. In (several European countries), the freedom to roam takes the form of general public rights which are sometimes codified in law… the right usually does not include any substantial economic exploitation, such as hunting or logging, or disruptive activities, such as making fires and driving offroad vehicles.”

We are fortunate to have several access points to the Cowichan through public parks. In the case of Little Beach, on Greendale Road, near Lake Cowichan, it’s encouraging to hear that public access through private property has not (yet) been denied.

Related to The Freedom to Roam, we must add two related issues: 1. The Freedom to Pee; and 2. The Freedom to Recreate All Year Long.

As a paddler, I’m not shy about pulling ashore and relieving myself when nature calls. I try to be discreet. The problem on the weir-to-Little Beach stretch is that the shoreline is almost all private property, and snarky signs on residential lots indicate that local residents object to the practice of boaters tinkling on their riverfront, or worse, in the river.

To complicate the issue, on the mistaken notion that recreational use of the river is a summer-only thing, Lake Cowichan has closed public washrooms for the winter at Saywell Park and the Duck Pond. In addition, porta-potties at Sandy Pool and Vimy are also removed for the winter season. Last time I was at Stoltz, the outhouse was locked.

Folks, we have work to do! We must strive toward “Freedom to Roam” and we must work aggressively to limit the current “Freedom to NIMBY.”

If you allow me reasonable access to the river, through your property, I promise not to light fires or trample your flowers. And if you’re offended by my peeing on your property, then pressure your local governments to maintain year-round toilet facilities at access points.

That’s my river too — get used to seeing me enjoy it! (In fact, come and enjoy it with me! Let’s celebrate our heritage river together!)

Rick Bryan

North Cowichan

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