Stettler County plans to crack down on the use of protected environmental lands around Buffalo Lake for boat storage, fire pits or makeshift picnic areas.
All-terrain vehicle riders are also being warned not to use beach access points to ride on protected areas.
Much of the lake is protected by environmental and municipal reserves and a provincial right of way. But over time, lakeside residents have come to see the strip of land around the lake as an extension of their property, said Shawna Benson, county director of communications.
Although the rules to leave the area undeveloped in any way are clearly posted and county peace officers regularly patrol, the amount of unwanted residential detritus has been increasing and other lake users are complaining.
“It was mostly spurred on by complaints from residents,” said Benson, of the effort to encourage homeowners to move their property off the reserve lands. “They’ve just been noticing a pile-up.
“We can’t enforce the rules in some areas and not others.”
Benson said the county first plans to do some research to determine if there are any licence agreements or special permissions in place. Work also has to be done to clearly map out the reserves. Reserves and the right of way can extend from a few metres to dozens of metres depending on the development plan at the time.
The county plans to clearly mark the reserves once their boundaries have been determined.
Letters will be sent out warning residents to move anything they have encroaching on the reserves before the county moves in. If the homeowner ignores requests, the county could remove property and dispose of it or auction it off.
That’s a last resort, however.
“We’re not in the business of confiscating. We don’t want it,” she said. “We just don’t want people to put their stuff on the MR and ER.
“We’re trying to be as reasonable as possible.”
Given the weather, the county may not send letters out until next year in hopes of prompting property owners to clean up nearby land in the spring.
There will be some exceptions. Property owners will be allowed to pull in boat docks and leave them on shore over the winter. It is not considered reasonable to expect people to find a way to remove the heavy docks each fall, she said.
Wayward ATVs have also been a recurring problem that is being addressed. The county is installing posts at access points to the beach to keep out the quad riders.
Peace officers have been out handing out tickets that start with a fine of $100 but the problem has continued.