Lois Hole pedway still a long way away
Popular shortcut to Lois Hole Park will see a fence before a pedestrian overpass
By: Kevin Ma
| Posted: Saturday, Feb 16, 2013 06:00 am
The province has agreed to fund construction of a fence along Ray Gibbon Drive, a structure critics say may make it tougher to get into Lois Hole Park.
Mayor Nolan Crouse received a letter from Alberta Transportation Minister Ric McIver earlier this month about Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park. St. Albert had been lobbying for provincial support to build a pedway over Ray Gibbon Drive.
That pedway, which would connect the Enjoy Centre to a proposed parking lot for an interpretive centre, is seen as a way to make it easier for people to get to Lois Hole Park and the associated John E. Poole wetland.
Currently, the only ways to get to the wetland from St. Albert are to sprint across Ray Gibbon Drive or take a several-block detour along the Red Willow Trail. Many residents opt for the former, putting them at risk of being hit by a car.
The letter, a copy of which was provided to the Gazette, states that Alberta Transportation will provide cash to build a fence along the east side of Ray Gibbon Drive in order to divert pedestrians to the underpass at the Sturgeon River or the traffic lights at LeClair Way.
It gave no timeline for the fence’s construction, but said it would be “subject to future provincial budgets and program priorities.”
The city had been talking with the province about a pedway, Crouse said, and this is its response. “They brought resolution to the question of if a pedway would be useful (or not) and they said, ‘Not right now.’”
Michael Botros, the Alberta Transportation director for this region, confirmed that his department had no plans to construct a pedestrian overpass at this location.
The province may eventually upgrade Ray Gibbon Drive to a highway and build an overpass at LeClair Way, which would also act as a pedway, Botros said.
“Until that happens, the city wants to move pedestrians from either side of Ray Gibbon Drive.”
The province supports the idea of a fence, and will reimburse the city should it decide to build it.
The city had hoped the province would spring for a pedway, Crouse said, but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards for now.
“There’s only so much money to go around,” he said.
He wasn’t sure when or if the city would build the fence.
Environmentalist Elke Blodgett said she had major concerns about a fence at this location. Moose, deer, coyotes, foxes and other animals frequently cross from Big Lake to the fields near the Enjoy Centre to graze, and a fence could trap them on the road, causing more collisions.
It would also make it tougher for students and residents to get to the park, Blodgett continued, especially since the path under Ray Gibbon Drive is often flooded. Repair and collision costs would make a fence more expensive than a pedway in the long run, she argued.
“It’s penny-wise and pound-foolish,” she said.
Diverting people under Ray Gibbon Drive won’t always be practical due to flooding, said Jim Hole, co-owner of the Enjoy Centre, and sending them across at LeClair Way drops them in an empty field.
“Where do you go from there?” he asked.
Hole hoped the province would take steps to maximize public access to Lois Hole Park.
“What we’ve been pushing for, of course, is the pedway,” he said.
The province’s letter also reports that the provincial parks department had agreed to develop a parking lot across from the Enjoy Centre on the west side of Ray Gibbon Drive.
“In the future, this is intended to become part of an interpretive centre,” it read.
This does not mean the location of the interpretive centre has been fixed, said Archie Landals, the Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation director overseeing the centre’s development.
“Parking lots are easy to move,” he said, and its eventual location will depend on the design of the centre. “We simply know that we want to build something out there.”
The centre will be somewhere near St. Albert, he acknowledged.
“In terms of a specific location, we’re a long ways from that yet.”s