The thorny issue of whether to close a makeshift boat launch to vehicle traffic was further complicated by a surprise land offer during a public hearing at Red Deer County on Tuesday.
About 40 people on both sides of the issue packed council chambers to voice their concerns about a proposal to install a barrier to block vehicles launching boats at the end of Range Road 21 on the west side of Sylvan Lake next to the Summer Village of Half Moon Bay.
Pedestrian access and launching boats small enough to be carried could continue.
Ted Hiscock, mayor of the summer village, said on busy days the area is strewn with garbage, including diapers and human waste. Boaters are often seen urinating out in the open because there are no washroom facilities.
Dozens of vehicles — 72 on one especially busy day — are parked on nearby roads and both vehicles and powerful boats create a racket for nearby residents.
Rising lake levels since the 1990s have made the problem worse because larger boats can now be launched at the site, he said, urging council to approve the closure.
Several other Half Moon Bay residents spoke in favour of closure, saying the constant traffic and jockeying of vehicles to park or launch boats made it dangerous for local children and families.
The garbage and human waste amounted to a “public health hazard,” argued one parent. Other municipal politicians took a different stance.
Sylvan Lake Mayor Susan Samson said there is already a shortage of access points on the lake and until other launches are built the range road should be kept open.
“When you close 21 the problems you have there get pushed to other sites and other range roads.”
Lacombe County Reeve Ken Wigmore said closing the site may mean losing an opportunity to develop it into a proper boat launch with parking and washrooms.
He agreed with Samson that if the county cuts off vehicle access on that site, it should join with other municipalities to find and develop an alternate launch point on the west side of the lake.
A number of residents said the town has an obligation to provide access to the lake, which is for the use of all.
Landowner Bob Gullon said the biggest problem at the site is there has been no cohesive plan to deal with the boat traffic.
Gullon offered to sell the county 10 or 20 acres of land he owns next to the site to develop room for parking and a day-use area.
“I believe that would be a solution for you.”
Coun. Penny Archibald recommended council delay making a decision because of the amount of feedback council had received.
Mayor Jim Wood agreed, noting the county now had to investigate the land deal offer.
“This is a totally different picture than when I walked in the door.”
No date was set for the return of the issue to council.