Public access to Lake Kinneret comes at a price

The State Comptroller's recommendations regarding free access to the lake have been completely ignored.

The thousands of people who are expected to flock to Lake Kinneret over the holidays, especially Succot, will find that none of the recommendations in the State Comptroller's Report regarding free access and facilities at the lake have been implemented, according to a survey by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI). SPNI found that if visitors want to enjoy the waters and the scenery they will almost certainly have to pay exorbitant fees. The State Comptroller's Report published in May severely criticized the erosion of public rights regarding access to the lake, the lack of free public facilities such as toilets and parking areas, and the non-implementation of regulations to preserve the lake and its surroundings for the public now and for future generations. Nir Papay, the SPNI's coastal and marine environment coordinator, said that according to the findings of the survey it appeared that the establishment had abandoned the lake and its shores. He said there was no enforcement of regulations; no attempt to coordinate between the various bodies to ensure laws were implemented; no investments in public facilities and services and no visible efforts to preserve this natural resource. The State Comptroller's Report noted that there were 120 fences that had been erected illegally around various parts of the Kinneret that should be removed. There were also places, said Papay, where permission was given for private entrepreneurs and local authorities to build hotels, guest houses and other facilities on the shore provided that access to the Kinneret was made available to the general public. Instead, notices had been put up saying these were private beaches and the areas fenced off, preventing access to anyone other than those staying in the hotels and guest houses or paying for the use of the other facilities. Papay said the average prices charged for parking around the Kinneret ranged from NIS 70 for cars to NIS 150 for buses. He stressed, however, that such facilities, including toilets, showers and lifeguards at beaches, were usually and according to law provided free by local authorities along the Mediterranean and Red Sea coastlines. A poll conducted by the SPNI at the beginning of this month revealed that the public was highly dissatisfied with the situation. The telephone poll, conducted among 500 people representing a cross-section of the public, revealed that more than 50 percent felt the excessive charges were a detriment to the enjoyment of their holidays around the Kinneret. The poll, with a margin of error put at 4.5 per cent, found that more than 40% of those interviewed were prepared to put themselves at risk by going to unrecognized beaches without lifeguards so they would not have to pay. The SPNI conducted a tour for reporters of the Kinneret on Monday as part of a campaign to press for implementation of the recommendations of the State Comptroller's Report. The SPNI is also urging the government and all other relevant bodies to help construct a 56-kilometer walking trail around the Kinneret. "This will be an expression of the public's rights around the lake and to enter beaches, and we see this as a very important aspect of our overall campaign," Papay told The Jerusalem Post. "We are considering various protest actions, especially over Succot, to press for the implementation of the state comptroller's recommendations and for the government to take the lead in the proposed walking trail around the Kinneret," said Papay.
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