Originally published by Vancouver Sun, December 8, 2018
A B.C. angler who took on an American billionaire ranch owner in a David and Goliath battle for public access to a lake says he’s shocked at winning the case.
“We are in disbelief right now but very happy,” Rick McGowan, director of the Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club, said the day after the B.C. Supreme Court ruled in the club’s favour.
McGowan’s club took the Douglas Lake Cattle Company to court two years ago after the company in the 1990s blocked access to Stoney and Minnie lakes on the Douglas Lake Ranch near Merritt.
McGowan said the court’s decision is precedent-setting and will mean the people of B.C. have a right to access all public places in the province.
In a ruling posted Friday, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Joel Groves said the provincial government retained rights to the lakes, making the fish in the lakes public property. The ruling means the public has a right to access the lakes.
Groves concluded that province breached its obligations to the citizens of B.C. when the cattle company unilaterally closed a public road and “no government official had the wherewithal to insist that the lock on the gate be removed.”
“We always knew what evidence we had and the law, but it was just how we were going to get the government and the private land owners to acknowledge that the law is there and they have to abide by it. And the judge now has confirmed that,” said McGowan, on Saturday.
“I know a few people were headed up there to go fishing today. So I’m sure that lock has been removed one way or another.”
The ranch is owned by American multibillionaire Stan Kroenke, who also owns the Denver Nuggets of the NBA, Los Angeles Rams of the NFL and the Colorado Avalanche of the NHL, among other sports enterprises. Lawyers for the ranch could not immediately be reached for comment.
To read the rest of this article about the Supreme Court’s ruling regarding the Douglas Lake Cattle Company, visit vancouversun.com.
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