Lantzville beach. (file photo)

Opinion: Potential beach fire ban doesn’t exhaust all options

It’s easy to blame a demographic that doesn’t vote or pay taxes, says columnist

If you’re looking for a place to legally enjoy a fire on the beach, you had better head to Lantzville, and soon.

That’s because the District of Lantzville, the little seaside community north of Nanaimo, is seriously considering banning fires on its beaches.

Lantzville councillors at council meeting a few weeks ago, discussed that very idea at length. Why? Well, according to some members of council, the beaches are “under siege” from young folks coming up from Nanaimo who have no respect for Lantzville or its beaches.

All these fires are causing unnecessary environmental harm to marine life and everyone else living near Lantzville’s beaches because, again, kids these days – especially those from Nanaimo – just don’t know how to respect the beach. As if adults aren’t guilty of violating mother nature and her Lantzville beaches.

Lantzville is one of the last municipalities on eastern Vancouver Island to allow beach fires. The district has around 4.5 kilometres of waterfront and more than two dozen access points to its beaches.

District staff have recommended banning beach fires, rejecting alternative solutions to the issue because those solutions would likely mean more work. They have ruled out any possibility of permanent fire pits because they are impossible to build due to rock shelf under the beach. Impossible is a strong word considering the countless engineering feats that humans have managed to achieve. However, I don’t doubt permanent pits wouldn’t be cheap to build.

RELATED: Lantzville looking to ban beach fires as youths aren’t respecting beaches

Recently, I was in Mukilteo, Wash., a seaside community near Seattle, where they have six fire pits available on the beach to the public on a first-come, first-served basis. These pits can be used until 10 p.m. daily, people must bring their own firewood and fires must not be higher than two feet and must be put out before leaving.

I fail to see why Lantzville couldn’t do something similar. After all, Lantzville council has been moving forward with initiatives aimed at increasing economic activity in their community. Lots of people showing up at Lantzville beaches should be looked at as an opportunity to experiment with creative solutions.

Councillors supportive of such a ban have cited numerous reasons beyond youths disrespecting the beach such as environmental issues, a possible tax increase due increased staff time and costs associated with other alternative solutions, like issuing fire permits or bylaw enforcement.

Rusty nails and broken glass on the beach, harm to marine life and ongoing parking issues along Sebastion Road are legitimate concerns. So are concerns about people having sex in front of homes on the beach, which one resident raised with the previous council last summer.

And I’m not dismissing those concerns because they are valid. But to outright ban beach fires without really considering alternative solutions is unfair, lazy and extreme. Even Lantzville Mayor Mark Swain asked that councillors do “the tough work” and come up with solutions.

But it appears that councillors would rather blame young people and outright ban something that has been allowed for years. After all, it is so much easier to blame a demographic that doesn’t vote or pay property tax.

I’m not saying that all teens and young people who use Lantzville beaches are doing so respectfully. No, what I’m saying is that councillors – instead of placing blame and taking away something many in Lantzville enjoy – find a solution that works for the majority. 
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