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New owner of $12-million Metchosin property blocks beach path after alleged harassment from users

The path between Taylor Beach and Weir Beach was taken for granted for decades—until new fencing and security guards appeared

By Tori Marlan
February 19, 2022
Real Estate
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

New owner of $12-million Metchosin property blocks beach path after alleged harassment from users

The path between Taylor Beach and Weir Beach was taken for granted for decades—until new fencing and security guards appeared

By Tori Marlan
Feb 19, 2022
A new fence and security guard are now blocking the path between the two beaches. Photo: Jackie Lamport / Capital Daily
A new fence and security guard are now blocking the path between the two beaches. Photo: Jackie Lamport / Capital Daily
Real Estate
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

New owner of $12-million Metchosin property blocks beach path after alleged harassment from users

The path between Taylor Beach and Weir Beach was taken for granted for decades—until new fencing and security guards appeared

By Tori Marlan
February 19, 2022
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New owner of $12-million Metchosin property blocks beach path after alleged harassment from users
A new fence and security guard are now blocking the path between the two beaches. Photo: Jackie Lamport / Capital Daily

In June, an oceanfront property in Metchosin sold for $12 million, setting a record high in Greater Victoria. The new owners of 529 Swanwick Road have not been publicly disclosed. Whoever they are, not long after they bought the house, they hired security guards to patrol their property line and extended their fencing, cutting off access to the waterfront in front of their property and interrupting a shoreline trail that provided beach access.  

At least once a week, Craig Norris would take walks with his wife at Devonian Park, which borders the Swanwick Road property. They’d often pause on a rocky outcrop to take in the view of the ocean and then head over to Taylor Beach. But since the new owners extended the fence, that’s no longer possible. “No idea if they have a right to fence off the beach or not but it certainly is ugly,” Norris said in an email to Capital Daily.

“It is unfortunate,” Metchosin Mayor John Ranns says of the blocked-off trail. “It was for many years a beautiful walk along the edge of the bluffs.” 

The new owners are well within their rights, he adds, as the trail is private property—though he understands why there’s confusion about that. Previous owners tolerated the trespassing for as far back as Ranns can remember, allowing the trail to be used as an access point to Weir Beach, Taylor Beach, and the three pocket beaches that sit between them.   

With the trail now blocked, are the beaches effectively privatized? No, says the mayor. Taylor and Weir beaches have other well used access points. The pocket beaches, though, are a bit of a challenge to get to now. They’re accessible only from the ocean, Ranns says—or “by scrambling the cliff faces.”

In recent years, Metchosin’s parks, beaches, and trails have seen increased usage from visitors, due to rapid development in the area and people’s desire in the midst of the pandemic to spend more time outdoors. Not all visitors respect residents’ privacy rights, Ranns says. 

Ranns says he doesn’t know who owns the Swanwick property but knows they’re new to the community. He’s heard that they ramped up the security measures on their property in response to harassment from people using the trail—harassment that included “people addressing their children.” 

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A security guard told Capital Daily that there were instances in which people came up to the house, looked in the windows, and knocked on a door. One person let a dog loose on the lawn. In a futile attempt to stop such behaviours, the guard said, the owners put up signs warning people to stay on the trail and to leash their dogs, before resorting to the fencing. 

Metchosin Councillor Marie-Térèse Little says that she has spoken with the owners, and that they’ve been “severely harassed,” including with vulgar language and threats of violence. She agreed to pass along an interview request from Capital Daily, which they declined, in part so as not to inflame the situation, she says.

“They’ve been called Nazis and racial slurs. It’s really out of hand,” Little says. A trespasser even threatened to shoot the family, according to Little.  

The owners are newcomers from Europe, she says: “This is the welcome they get.”

Metchosin Council has been receiving impassioned correspondence from locals about the changes implemented by 529 Swanwick’s new owners. 

Sue Pantor relayed a conversation she’d had with the owners, who said they’d witnessed people defecating, taking photos, and letting their dogs roam off leash. “I would challenge any homeowner in our community to allow that kind of behaviour on their own private property,” she wrote.

Bev Hall and Maurice Robinson wrote that they were appalled by the “abuse and harassment” of the new owners, though they offered no specifics. They also wrote that they’ve noticed an increase in foot traffic, adding that the trail can now be found on social media and hiking maps and is “known by the residents in the trailer park.” Like several other residents who wrote to council, they expressed concerns about liability in the event that someone got hurt on the trail, which crosses through several properties and which they referred to as dangerous.

Others were equally vehement in opposition to the changes. Bev Koch wrote that she has lived in the area for 24 years and was “quite dismayed” to see the new security measures. “There is even a guard standing on top of the rock that I used to climb up with my kids to enjoy the beautiful view! What a way to wreck a beautiful park in Metchosin,” she wrote.

Jacqueline Lineham found the presence of multiple security guards “rather intimidating” and expressed concern that the new owners were setting a precedent that would “lead to every property owner with beachfront fencing it off past the waterline.” 

Ranns says in the 90s, when he was chair of CRD Parks Committee, he tried to interest the district in buying the trail. But there was no acquisition fund back then, and there was little interest. 

The council recognizes that the community is divided over the blocked beach access and is planning to post signs saying the trail is private property. Ranns says members also will be discussing the issue in an upcoming in-camera session. 

“We need to know a little more accurately about what’s going on, because most of this is anecdotal,” he says. 

Council also plans to discuss whether there’s anything it can do to appease the community—perhaps by engaging with residents and the new owners. “I always believe with enough dialogue, solutions can be found,” Ranns says.

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Tori Marlan
Investigative Reporter
contact@capitaldaily.ca

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New owner of $12-million Metchosin property blocks beach path after alleged harassment from users
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