Rising water cuts access to Lois Hole park
RCMP unable to patrol area due to depth of water
By: Peter Boer
| Posted: Wednesday, Aug 01, 2012 06:00 am
With the Sturgeon River rising higher with every drop of rain, the only path leading to Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park and the Big Lake Environment Support Society (BLESS) viewing platform has been washed out again.
Local activist Elke Blodgett has been documenting the rising water levels with her camera. She says she first noticed water starting to creep onto the pathway under the Ray Gibbon Drive bridge on July 24. She notified public works, who promptly erected a warning sign.
On Monday, the path was covered in water for a distance of about 20 metres.
“A concern is obviously for safety,” Blodgett said. “Kids on their bikes that go off on their own and go down there and it’s very easy to slip into the river.”
The frequency and duration of the flooding have become a point of contention for both Blodgett and BLESS. Pat Collins, president of BLESS, has repeatedly asked council to somehow address the issue as there are no other paths leading to the platform or park. The only other way to access either is to cross Ray Gibbon Drive.
While the engineering department put together several options such as a floating bridge and levees, council voted in April to put forward a business case for the 2013 budget, which won’t be approved until December.
Council had previously asked the city administration to evaluate potential solutions so that a local group like BLESS could apply for grant funding to repair the problem.
“It’s kind of a struggle but we did get the city to commit to it,” Collins said. “Whether it goes through in the budget is another matter.”
City staff had predicted there was less than a 20-per-cent chance that section of the trail would flood, but that was based purely on snowmelt in the spring and not on the volume of rainfall in the last two weeks, said acting city manager Guy Boston.
“There’s no way of predicting rain over a year,” Boston said.
Access and safety aren’t the only concerns. Cpl. Laurel Kading of the St. Albert RCMP detachment visited the trail Monday night and said the water on the trail is so deep the Electric Patrol Vehicle (EPV) the RCMP uses to patrol the trail system cannot cross it. That means the detachment can’t check in on the viewing platform, which has seen some thefts and vandalism.
“The flooding there in that underpass is sufficient that we were not able to get through on the [EPV] and were not able to go over on that side to patrol the Big Lake area, but we certainly patrol the rest of the trail area,” she said.
Collins said that is worrisome.
“I think it is a concern because we’ve had our canoe stolen in the past, we have a canoe out there and we’ve had that stolen. We’ve had some vandalism to the platform and this year someone tried to set fire to our little picnic table, so that’s definitely a concern.”
Collins said he is in contact with an engineer from the city to try and develop the best possible solution to the flooding problem. While nothing can be done this year, Collins is optimistic about next spring.
“This is the first time the city has really committed to repairing that problem and I feel hopeful it will go through this year.”