Penticton loses lease on Airport Beach

The current lease on the beach area directly south of the airport has expired.

The city’s lease of the stretch of beach along Skaha Lake known as Airport Beach was not renewed by the Penticton Indian Band.

Airport Beach has been a public swimming area for so many years that many residents may not be aware that the city doesn’t actually own the land.

But the current lease on the beach area directly south of the airport has expired, and the owners, the Kruger family, have told the city they no longer wish to lease out the land, and have requested the city discontinue maintenance of Airport Beach and its facilities.

“As per past practice, the city offered to renew our maintenance services. The locatee (private owners of Penticton Indian Band land) family has since indicated they would like to maintain the beach themselves,” said Mayor Garry Litke, reading from a prepared statement.

Travis Kruger, spokesperson for the family, said the beach is primarily used as a boat beach, and the family thinks they can put it to better use, and build on the activity already being generated in the section leased by Barefoot Beach.

However, he says there are no plans to close the beach to the public.

“We never want to restrict access to locals because locals are who support the economy,” said Kruger.  “It’s not this big scary thing where everything is going to change and we are going to shut it down.”

The Krugers’ decision, said Litke, is in line with ongoing economic development work being done by the PIB.

“I think the Kruger family has some plans, some vision for what they want to do with that beach. They wanted to have the autonomy to do what they want to do with that beach. It is their land and they have every right to do so,” said Litke.

“They are taking it on themselves to encourage visitors to the area and the locatee family’s decision is in line with the opportunities on the horizon.”

City manager Annette Antoniak said the city has been leasing the area for about $55,000 a year. However, the lease has been in place for so long that none of the councillors were sure of when it started.

“From the ‘60s, anyway,” said Coun. John Vassilaki.

Kruger said the city had been interested in a longer term lease, but his family wanted to see better use made of the beach.

“It was not  something we were interested in going to, because in the last 20-25 years they (the city) haven’t done anything,” said Kruger.  “They just leave it and use it as what it is and I just think of the potential of things that could be done there.

Kruger said his vision is to make Airport Beach into one of the best in Canada.

“That is my feeling, that is what I want. I don’t want just another beach. I want a place where people can come and have an experience,” said Kruger.

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