A proposed ban on beach fires in Lantzville sparked more conversation this week but is moving ahead.
Lantzville councillors gave third reading to a proposed fire protection services bylaw, which calls for a total ban on all beach fires within the municipality, during a council meeting on Monday night. Councillors spent the majority of Monday’s meeting dealing with a handful of motions related to beach fires, including one that called for a committee to be created in order to deal with the issue. However, that motion was deferred to a later meeting.
Mayor Mark Swain asked council to reconsider its decision from last month, urging councillors to consider alternative solutions and saying that imposing an immediate beach fire ban would be a “premature” move by council. He said a better option might be a move toward regulation and enforcement of beach fires.
“I think as a community we have to look at what makes our community special and try to preserve that. Do we really want to regulate our community to the point that we start to lose our identity? Part of our identity in Lantzville is having beach fires. It is part of it whether you like it or not and I think the majority share that view,” he said, adding that some regulation can come through increased signage along the beach.
Swain said beach fires are a symptom of a much bigger issue around access to Lantzville beaches, explaining that there are ongoing parking issues at Sebastion Road.
“This isn’t necessarily an issue about beach fires, it’s about access to our beach and how that goes unregulated in terms of parking, it is just a free-for-all for parking,” he said, adding that he’s seen as many as 50 cars parked at the end of the Sebastion Road.
However, Coun. Will Geselbracht reiterated his call for an immediate beach fire ban, explaining that he counted 31 beach fires one day within a short stretch. He said there is a crisis in Lantzville and the first solution is an immediate ban followed by potentially allowing a permit-based system, adding that he would be open to a beach fire committee.
“Let’s get all these good citizens, the people we’ve heard here tonight, to sit on the task force, special committee and come up with some recommendations. What are the recommendations? Well maybe we have four fire pits, maybe we have five fire pits, maybe those people who have special family gatherings can come in and pick up their permit and they can have their special family gatherings. That’s great, but let’s do it. Let’s just stop [complaining] about it.”
Geselbracht explained that with warmer and drier weather ahead it will only be a matter of time before a fire ban is implemented provincewide and that should allow councillors more time to deal with the issue. He also said any notion that council is against people from Nanaimo coming and using the beach is false.
Coun. Ian Savage said he opposes a full ban, a position he’s made well-known in the past. He said he’s learned that there has been no consultation with the Nanoose First Nation regarding the beach fire ban, adding that improving relationships with them is a council priority.
“I think this would be a good start to include them in the discussion. For centuries their community and culture has had fires on the beach,” he said. “We’ve received numerous proposals for solutions and we should give them a chance before we go straight to a ban.”
However, Coun. Jamie Wilson said solutions cost money and he is doubtful the community would be able to keep the beaches clean.
“I have seen some pretty vocal people on social media … there is a huge community push as far as cleaning the beach,” he said. “I think it is unrealistic long-term to think we are going to have this huge community push for years and years, but that remains to be seen.”
Regulation can also mean having propane fires on the beach Wilson said, adding that Lantzville needs some “serious solutions” to the issue but doesn’t “really want to get into” what those solutions might be at the moment.
Coun. Karen Proctor, who has proposed creating a beach fire committee that would be tasked to come up with solutions regarding the issue, stressed the need for the beaches to be protected due to environment concerns.
“If you have a beach fire, you kill the invertebrates, not just under the beach fire, but in a huge area,” she said, citing an environmental report.
Proctor said beach fires are important to Lantzville and with a possible ban on the horizon, it is important that councillors examine with solutions that will work for the majority.
“When you have a thorny issue like [this], you need to step back and involve the whole community in the decision-making and make a decision with all of our options in front of us and right now we don’t have them all,” she said.
In the end councillors Proctor, Geselbracht and Wilson voted in favour of moving forward with the beach fire ban. Councillors will discuss final adoption of the ban at a council meeting later this month.