For decades, it has been a source of enjoyment for residents of Hopkins Landing, but for visitors and newcomers alike, the waterfront walkway might seem forbidden.
Running parallel to Point Road and ending at Hopkins Road, the walkway provides a brisk and scenic route towards the wharf. But at both ends of the path, fences are adorned with a sign that reads ‘private property.’
Those signs have been frequent targets for alteration by those disputing the claim. With a quick glance one can see the faded letters of passersby who have written ‘not’ above the words ‘private property.’
Throughout the years, the pathway has been improved upon by the residents of Hopkins Landing, who have erected benches, a tree fort, boat ramps, stairs to the beach and various other sorts of amenities.
At some points along the path, a walker might feel as if they have entered someone’s yard, when the enclosed and thoroughly groomed portions give way to open spaces and lawns where a territorial dog is likely to greet you.
If you ask Art Manning, a resident whose waterfront home sits above the walkway, visitors are quite welcome to use the path — they just have to obey the rules.
“It’s not a playground, it’s a walkway,” he said.
According to Manning, residents along the waterfront have had to deal with “rowdy” visitors taking advantage of the community feature, holding football games or setting up campsites.
The fences and private property signs were erected to help deter that behaviour.
As for the claim that the land is private property, technically, it is, but it is not held by the homeowners individually.
The walkway sits within a parcel of land stretching along the waterfront, from the end of Point Road to Hopkins Road. The land is owned by the Hopkins Landing Water Improvement District, an obsolete utility company with a rather unique history.
Some 50 years ago, the strip of land was set aside during a subdivision process.
“It was so that everybody along the beach could get to the store and the wharf,” Manning explained.
The waterworks is registered to Gloria Fyles, also a resident of Hopkins Landing.
“It belonged to the Hopkins family and they gave it to the waterworks, way back when my husband was looking after things,” Fyles said, adding that the responsibility has been hers for roughly 50 years now. “They didn’t want people to own right to the waterfront ... it’s for the benefit of all the residents of Hopkins Landing, that’s what it’s for.”
The waterworks do not provide water to the area, nor does the walkway contain any water-related infrastructure.
But thanks to the Local Government Act, the organization is also exempt from paying taxes on the land.
“Improvement districts are considered a form of local government different, but similar, to municipalities,” explained Sunshine Coast Regional District treasurer Tina Perreault.
As such, the improvement district has passed a series of bylaws prohibiting activities other than walking, including the construction of further amenities by the residents who live above the land.
Beachgoers and other visitors to the area will sometimes pause at the private property sign, but the homeowners are likely to wave them on through.
“We have no way of stopping people from walking it, and we’ve never had any intention of stopping people,” Fyles said. “But we did want to show that it wasn’t just open thoroughfare.”