The largest working cattle ranch in Canada has won its fight against public access to two pristine fishing lakes in B.C.’s Nicola Valley, after appeal court judges overturned part of a previous ruling that said the lakes should be accessible to the public.
The Douglas Lake Cattle Company (DCLC) had been battling the Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club over access to the two trout lakes near Merritt, B.C., for years. The David and Goliath fight came close to resolution in 2018 after a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled Minnie Lake and Stoney Lake should be publicly accessible.
The owner of the ranch, American billionaire Stan Kronke, won his part of his appeal challenging that decision on Friday.
The B.C. Court of Appeal found the lower court erred in 2018 because portions of trails and road leading to the lakes are not public and don’t quite reach the shorelines of either lake.
So, even though the water in the lakes is public, there is no way to get there without trespassing on private property which has the potential to impact access public lakes across the province
Summary of appeal judgement:
The  trial judgment gave the public access to two lakes on the appellant, DLCC’s property. DLCC challenges the judge’s determination that a road and a trail on the property were excepted from an 1895 Crown grant and that there is public access to both lakes. Held: Appeal allowed in part. The road in question was excepted from the Crown grant; however, because the trail was not excepted from the Crown grant and the elements of common law dedication are not met, the trail is not a public way. The trial judge erred in determining the natural boundary of one lake by failing to address the applicable statutory criteria. The public road at issue does not reach the natural boundary of either lake, as defined by survey. The Trespass Act permits DLCC to prohibit the public from crossing its property, including its land under water. The lakes in question are not navigable and no case for access to the shoreline as a right appurtenant to the right to navigate is made out. A public interest costs order against DLCC and the respondent Province was also set aside, with each party ordered to bear their own costs at trial.